Steve Abrams and his opponent in the Senate District 32 Republican primary agree on this priority: making Kansas attractive to new business and the creation of jobs.
But Abrams and Miranda Allen disagree about one way to go about it.
Abrams voted for legislation signed by Gov. Sam Brownback this year that lowers individual income taxes and eliminates taxes on the profits business owners get from limited liability companies, subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships.
Allen, who owns a small business, contends that isn’t the way to increase jobs.
But “studies have shown that businesses tended to go to areas where there is a lower income tax,” said Abrams. Abrams owns Cottonwood Animal Clinic in Arkansas City, where he is a veterinarian.
He agrees with Allen that cuts to property taxes would be good, but he said that income tax cuts are the ones most likely to be tied to an increase in business and jobs. “We needed to do that first. It has happened,” Abrams said. He disagrees with those who project a deficit from the tax cuts; he expects a budget surplus.
“There are several things that are key to attracting business. A favorable tax rate is important, and we’ve done that, and that’s good,” Abrams said. “A good educational system is another. That is one thing I’ve been working on for a number of years.”
Abrams was on the State Board of Education from 1995 to 2009.
“The prime reason I was on the state board for several years and wanted to move to the Senate was to get the technical education started in high schools, and it needed legislative help,” Abrams said.
Abrams sees progress toward the goal with the passage this year of a technical education bill. Abrams introduced the bill in previous years. He said that surveys done when he was on the board of education showed that high school seniors often described that last year as boring.
“What we needed and need to do is get something that will motivate the students,” Abrams said. “This is my belief: being educated is not necessarily the same for every person. ... Only about 20 to 22 percent of our jobs in Kansas require a bachelor’s or a master’s or a Ph.D., so why are we training all our students to go to college?”
Under this initiative, students can get help identifying their interests and talents, and then are able to work toward certification as, say, a welder or a carpenter while aligning that training with language-arts, math and science requirements for graduation from high school. Most people don’t know it, but welders are required to have that broader educational background, Abrams said.
“If you embed those necessary factors within the curriculum of auto mechanics ... then all at once the student is excited about moving forward ... because it’s something they want to do,” he said.
The state needs to build on the initiative by allocating a $29 million infusion for high schools to help implement it, Abrams said. He said the program would not involve tracking students to be sure that they stayed in the field they had initially chosen.
Abrams was elected to the Kansas Senate in 2008 but is introducing himself to potential new constituents in the redrawn District 32, which now includes southwestern Sedgwick County as well as parts of Cowley and Kingman counties and all of Sumner, Harper, Barber and Comanche counties.
“There’s a lot more geography. It was approximately 60 miles. Now it’s about 150 border to border,” Abrams said.
He said he decided to run for state senator again because of “the same things that have motivated me in the past” – smaller and less-centralized government. “I’m a believer that the government that is closest to the people is the most responsive,” Abrams said.
The winner of the Republican primary faces no opposition in November.
Abrams said that if he is elected again it will be his goal to work toward a discussion about education involving all stake-holders, including lawmakers, instructors, parents, business owners and taxpayers. “Every entity that has an interest in this should be part of this discussion about what does it mean to be educated in the state of Kansas,” he said.
Another priority is “having a constant regulatory environment where the state is not always changing the dynamics of what the business is trying to do.”
Kansans for Life has endorsed Abrams, and he said abortion should be illegal except in one case: ectopic pregnancy, which threatens the life of the mother. He would always want to try to save both mother and baby even then, he said.