The race for Kansas House District 30 probably should never have happened.
If the Legislature had drawn election boundaries this year like it was supposed to, Republicans Lance Kinzer and Ron Worley probably wouldn’t have crossed paths this election.
Worley would have likely been campaigning for a fourth term representing Lenexa. Kinzer would have likely been campaigning for a fifth term representing Olathe.
But three federal judges stepped in and drew the districts for the Legislature. The new district maps lumped Kinzer and Worley together in a district that includes a mix of Olathe and Lenexa near Interstates 435 and 35.
While the two lawmakers like each other, they do present clear choices for voters in the Aug. 7 primary. The winner will face Democrat Liz Dickinson in the general election.
Kinzer and Worley disagree on just about every major issue confronting the Kansas Legislature, whether it’s taxes, how judges are selected and one key abortion issue.
For example, Kinzer voted against a penny sales tax increase approved by the Legislature two years ago. Worley supported the sales tax increase.
The sales tax hike was intended to offset cuts in education and social services and help pay for new highway projects such as a new interchange at I-435, Kansas 10 and Kansas 7.
“It was bad for Kansas families,” Kinzer said of the tax increase. “At a time when families were already squeezed in Kansas based on a down economy, to add an increase in the sales tax…was a bad thing to do.”
Worley said he didn’t know if there ever was a good time for tax increase, but said this one was important for protecting education funding.
Worley noted that about a half-cent from that tax increase is scheduled to lapse next year. He said the increase was made temporary to help the state get past budget difficulties without permanently affecting taxpayers.
Worley and Kinzer also cast opposing votes on the massive tax-cut bill that supporters say will spur growth but critics will leave gaping holes in the state budget and hurt taxpayer services such as education.
The tax cuts, which cost $3.7 billion over five years, potentially put the state fiscally under water, Worley said.
“The potential to have to make significant reductions as early as fiscal year 2014 is very real.” Worley said. “I am concerned about where those cuts would come from. I am very concerned that public education would be a target of those cuts.”
Kinzer doesn’t believe the tax cuts will lead to a collapse in state services. He said Kansas spent $1 billion less just two years ago and state services didn’t fall apart.
Kansas government has “functioned without massive problems with respect to the ability to meet core functions of government in budget cycles…when we were spending substantially less than what we’re spending now,” Kinzer said.
They also disagree on a number of other issues.
Kinzer supports letting the governor pick judges (with Senate confirmation) for the state appeals court. Worley favors the current system that uses a panel made up of lawyers and non-lawyers who submit a slate of judge candidates to the governor to select from.
Worley opposes a bill that would let concealed-weapon permit holders to carry firearms in public buildings. Kinzer supports the legislation.
A leading abortion opponent in the Legislature, Kinzer pushed a bill outlawing late-term abortions after 21 weeks – with some narrow exceptions — based on the disputed argument that a fetus can feel pain. Worley opposed the bill because he thought the science was questionable.
On education, two candidates differ on their approach to schools. While both agree that the current formula for funding schools puts Johnson County at a disadvantage, they disagree to what extent more money should be added for education.
Worley believes more money needs to be added to make up for cuts in state base aid per pupil from 2008 to 2011.
“When there’s no new money, it’s difficult to change the formula,” Worley said. “If you have a zero-sum game, somebody’s not going to get as much. If we had some additional money, then maybe we could find a way to more equalize that formula.”
Kinzer and Worley voted differently on an amendment this year to add $50 million for schools. Kinzer opposed it. Worley supported it. However, both voted for a budget that put $40 million into the state base aid for education. Both also supported a plan to let local school districts ask voters to raise property taxes for extracurricular activities.
Adding money to the current formula without reform doesn’t necessarily help Johnson County schools, Kinzer said.
“A pro-education position in Johnson County is to support reform to the system as a whole,” Kinzer said.
“To the extent that we continue to say we’re going to fund a formula that sucks money out of Johnson County without getting reform that allows us to raise more money locally, those are not votes that in my view are advantageous for schools in Johnson County.”
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