Q & A With Jim & Rosie

Question: How Do We Improve the Kansas Economy?

Answer: Kansas lost over 12,000 private sector jobs in the last year, yet we have tens of thousands of other jobs across the state going unfilled. This is what I call a jobs stalemate.

The result of this stalemate is a state with a stagnant economy, where too many jobs are leaving, and others go unfilled because workers don’t have the required skills or training. It is no wonder our young people don’t stay and others of all ages get discouraged.

Our plan recognizes that job growth comes from the ground up, not the top down. Yes, the state has a role, but that role needs to be tailored to the needs of individual communities and businesses. A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work.

Our framework for more skilled workers and better paying jobs is built on four key pillars. First, we need to get the basics right. State government is finally on track to get its fiscal house in order. Now we need to build on that progress in a variety of areas, including work force development, infrastructure repair, education, health care, and overall quality of life.

Second, we need a regional approach to economic development, one that recognizes local control and input. This is especially true in industry. What is needed in Garden City may not be needed in Olathe.

Third, we need to Identify and support high potential, high performing industries. Healthcare technology is one of the nation’s fastest growing industry sectors. We have components of it here in Kansas. As governor and Lt. governor, our job will be to make Kansas as supportive of these industries as we can be.

Fourth, is what we call “Enterprising Academics. What I mean by that is an educational system and a business system that work in partnership to provide the skills our workers to need to succeed and the knowledge our businesses need to compete. I look forward to supporting and enhancing efforts currently underway in this regard.

Question: As Governor & Lt. Governor, What Would You Do About Our Education System?

Answer: Education reform is the driver of the Kansas economy in the 21st Century. Our program covers three basic categories, what we call the ABC’s of education reform in Kansas.

A is for Advancing Childhood Development. Up to 25% of our children under-perform in the classroom and there are steps we can take at an early age to remedy this. There are individual school systems in Kansas that have found ways to do this on their own, in part by combining existing programs together in new and better ways. As governor and Lt governor we will make improved childhood development a statewide effort, so all school districts in the state can benefit from knowing what works and learning best practices to make progress.

One key part of better child development is overcoming adverse childhood events or experiences. Things like neglect, abuse or even sustained lack of parental interaction, that occur in the early years of childhood can mark kids for life if not remedied. Making progress here has the added benefit of reducing longer term problems like addiction, mental health and other issues that stem from the adverse early childhood events.

B means Be out of Court. For most of the past 12 years, decisions around education funding have been stuck in court. We need to end this cycle. We cannot make the necessary changes we need in education if we are constantly arguing in front of a judge. We should be working together for the changes and innovations that will help our children get ahead.

The court has clearly marked school finance as inequitable and inadequate. But while more money in the system will be needed, there are many areas where more money is not the solution.

A key part of the problem is that the Court used what are known as “the Rose standards” as part of their decision. These standards stem from court decisions in Kentucky in 1989. We believe the Court did us a disfavor relying so heavily on the Rose Standards, but they had little else to use as guidelines since the legislature had put them into statute.

As the next governor and Lt governor, we will work to bring people together to develop educational standards that are pertinent to Kansas, that are measurable, and will help our children succeed.

C is for Careers. We need to change our focus from the earning and amassing of credits to learning the skills to build careers. This recognizes the importance of work force development as one of the engines needed for our economic growth.

We are 6 to 10 years behind in developing the work force we need in Kansas today. There are jobs going unfilled in Kansas right now because we have not helped our citizens get the skills necessary to do them.

Rosie and I support programs in our secondary schools that help our children be ready for college. But the notion that everyone needs to go to college to have a productive life is wrong. People can obtain a good education in our Community and Technical College. They can get high paying jobs that provide for their families and help grow the Kansas economy. We should be teaching skills like coding in elementary school and it should be fun. We should be encouraging life-long technical learning to help Kansans keep up with changes in their occupation and with technology in general.

Question: Is Expanding Access to Medicaid Insurance Good For Kansas?

Answer: In Kansas, many rural communities have hospitals that are struggling to stay open. Kansans across the state have been saddled with higher premiums and higher co-pays. Many low-income, hard-working Kansans need the security that comes with health insurance. Communities across the state are facing an opioid crisis. Kansans need assurance that they will not lose prescription drug coverage, maternity care coverage and mental health coverage. Expanding Medicaid insurance to cover more low-income Kansans would help address these problems. That’s why we are for it.

Our criteria for productive changes to the health care system are simple. We need to control costs, both for individuals and the overall system; we need to stabilize and bring more competition to the health care marketplace; we need more choice for consumers and greater flexibility for individual states to experiment with new ways of providing care; and we need to protect the less fortunate, especially those who are dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems, and drug addiction.

Question: What Is Washington Doing About Health Care?

Answer: Congress’ priority should be improving our nation’s private health insurance system so that quality health insurance is available and affordable for every American. As a nation, we need to address the root causes of our ever-increasing healthcare costs. When Washington expanded coverage of Medicaid, they made a commitment to fund 90% of the cost of that expansion. Some in Congress want to renege on that. We think they should keep that promise.

Question: What Can be Done About Voter Security

Answer: The ability of each registered person to vote and the integrity of that vote is critical to our democracy. Just look at some of the close elections we have had in this state and across the country.

For the better part of 8 years, our Kansas Secretary of State has administered a multi-state voter identification system. The program goes by the name of CrossCheck and involves 26 other states and a database of an estimated 100 million people. Unfortunately, it has many flaws.

First, people in Kansas have already had their personal data compromised by this program. The names, addresses, dates of birth and last 4 digits of Social Security numbers of 1,400 Kansas voters were accessed by a liberal activist group in Chicago through a simple Freedom of Information request. In addition, several independent companies with expertise in data security have looked at the site and concluded it lacks basic safeguards, that even amateur hackers could get in with little trouble.

Until the site is more secure, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office is no better than Equifax. They promise information on potential voter fraud, but in the process expose Kansans and others to potential financial fraud, including identity theft.

A second problem with CrossCheck is cost. Maintaining and updating an estimated 100 million name database takes time and money. Yet we have little or no information on the overall cost of the CrossCheck program and why Kansas taxpayers are paying for a program that 26 other states get to use for free. Who is responsible for administration of this database in the Secretary of State’s office? Where is the cost information for this activity listed in state budget documents? This is the kind of basic cost and personnel information Kansans should have access to.

While the database is located in Arkansas, the program is administered and supervised by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. Legally, this potentially puts taxpayers at risk, exposing them to paying for state government’s liability for improper disclosure of information.

Third, the CrossCheck system is not accurate and effective. Because it only uses three pieces of data to identify matches, the system is full of false positives, not double voting. Their own participation guide says just that. State, including Kansas, have to spend money to investigate dual registrations or they will be wrongly removing names from the voter rolls.

In 2012 and 2014, Crosscheck sent Iowa officials information on about 240,000 voter registrations that shared a name and a date of birth with a voter in another state. But under detailed investigation, researchers from four universities found only six names where it appeared the same person was registered and voted in two different states.

Given this ridiculously higher error rate, it is no wonder that Florida, Washington, and Oregon no longer use the program. And other states are actively questioning the systems value. Kansas taxpayers should not be funding a program that is the source of false and misleading data.

Question: What Can We Do to Increase the Number of Tourists in Kansas?

Answer: Nationally, tourism is a two trillion dollar industry that supports over fifteen million jobs. Every day, states are competing aggressively for these jobs and dollars. But recently Kansas has not been in the game.

In 2017, the state is spending less on Tourism, Parks and Wildlife than it did five years ago. Our state’s tourism budget is one-third the national average. And we are significantly behind what neighboring states like Colorado, Missouri, and Oklahoma spend.

Small investments in this area can have a large impact. So when it comes to jobs, it is penny wise and pound foolish not to be spending money here.
Given the lack of effort by the state, it should come as no surprise that Kansas is missing out on its fair share of tourism jobs, dollars and recognition. Here are some of the unfortunate facts regarding tourism:

  • Kansas ranked 41st in terms of travel-generated taxes.
  • Kansas ranked 46th as a place to visit, by a Business Insider survey.
  • Kansas ranked 39th as place to take summer road trips.
  • Kansas was rated 43rd for entertainment, recreation and nightlife.

None of these surveys tell the full story, but all are out there in the virtual world creating an impression of our state and what we have to offer for visitors. And as recently as 2014, Kansas was ranked near the bottom in terms of social media presence for tourism. So we have not been getting our message out as effectively as we need to. This needs to change.

My five-point program would begin with an inventory of potential attractions and sites in the state, along with the resources currently being allocated to developing and promoting them. Such an inventory would be the first of its kind for Kansas.

Next, would be working on a regional basis with those in the tourism arena, to identify and provide specific assistance tailored to individual activities or sites and designed to produce results. A vigorous marketing program focused on specialized audiences would be a key part of this effort.

Third would be the expansion of current sites and, where beneficial, the connection of certain sites to ones in neighboring states. Examples of this could include the development of Clinton Lake into a U.S. Whitewater National Park and linking the Flint Hills Nature Trail to the Katy Trail in Missouri.

Fourth would be an emphasis on International Tourism. This would include expanding Heritage Travel, those from countries like Britain or Germany looking to explore our state and see where their ancestors migrated, as well as marketing our open spaces to japan and other Asian countries who residents do not get to enjoy or see open space on a scale that America offers.

Finally, would be expanded activity and support from state government. This would involve additional funding for Tourism, Parks and Wildlife, along with providing individualized support for sites like Little Jerusalem in western Kansas soon to be opened to the public by the Nature Conservancy.

Kansas has a lot of offer in terms of recreation, natural beauty, history and entertainment. As governor, I want to help more people learn about our attractions and come here to see and enjoy it.

Have more questions? We would love to answer them!