Two people with experience in Augusta city government are running for the District 77 seat in the state Legislature.
Mayor Kristey Williams and former City Council member Kenneth Bratton, both Republicans, are vying to replace David Crum, who is retiring. No other candidates are seeking the seat, so the Republican primary should decide the winner.
Bratton, 50, also a former Augusta school board vice president, is general manager of the campground resort The Raft Inc.
He said he is a true conservative.
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“We’ve had several politicians for years who have made a career of it and lost what it means to represent people in office,” he said. “All of my stances and viewpoints are not just words to gain a vote, they’re what I believe.”
Bratton said the Legislature has moved in the right direction by cutting the income tax; he suggests a law is needed that would require a two-thirds majority approval for state income tax increases. He also advocates for property tax reform.
“There need to be some controls put in place on property and real estate tax,” he said. “It doesn’t quite work if you get property tax relief but local governments can step in and increase mill levies so that people end up paying the same amount. Local people should have input on that.”
Bratton said he saw wasteful spending during his time on the school board. He said many school districts have funds that carry over year to year that they don’t use, and every school district does its budgeting and financial paperwork a bit differently.
“There is waste we need to look at, and we need to develop accurate reporting standards that are equal across all school districts,” he said. “There’s no real clarity as to which district needs more funding or has too much.”
Bratton would like to see a spending cap for the state budget that takes into account inflation and population growth. If population does not increase, the Legislature should adjust the state budget to account only for inflation, he said.
“There needs to be a cap all state agencies work off of when they do their internal budgets,” he said. “The numbers need to be based on quantifiable data.”
Williams, 43, was elected to her second term as mayor in 2011. Under her tenure, she said, the city made infrastructure improvements, including repairs to a city lake and river dam, and approved a sales tax to fund a necessary water line.
“I’ve been serving my community for more than seven and a half years,” she said. “Even before I became mayor, I’ve worked on many projects as a mother of four and community volunteer. Being a state representative provides an opportunity to look at issues that are larger.”
The most important issue for Kansans is the economy, she said.
“Kansans want good jobs and a good quality of life for their families,” she said. “We need policies that contribute to a healthy community that allow families to keep more of their income while using a sustainable budget to take care of our infrastructure and services.”
Williams said she wants to see the private sector grow the economy instead of government by putting money back in Kansans’ pockets and their communities. But she also said that state funding like the Affordable Airfares program, which provide subsidies to low-fare air carriers, can be beneficial.
“You have to always look at the return on investment,” she said. “Yes, we want limited government, but we also want to make sure we’re doing what is necessary to benefit residents in our communities. We want to make sure that everything we do has a benefit to everyone we serve.”
Williams also said she supports more local control of education.
Inadequate funding is only half the issue for schools, she said.
“The other half is what the outcomes of education are,” said Williams, a former science teacher. “Are children being prepared for their future jobs? That’s a very important part of the discussion. Many teachers have been frustrated with efforts to address it like the No Child Left Behind Act or Common Core standards. I don’t have the answer yet, because it hasn’t been found, but I will work with educators to find out what is best.”
Crum, who served for eight years, endorsed Williams when he announced that he was retiring in May. The two share similar views and a conservative philosophy of government, he said.
Crum said Williams first displayed her organizational and leadership skills when she organized volunteers to raise money and construct a playground in Augusta.
“She’s an individual who has a way of getting things done,” he said. “I think she’s learned a lot as mayor and understands the importance of working cooperatively with others in order to accomplish a goal and that will serve her well in the legislative process.”
District 82 Rep. Pete DeGraaf, who has served since 2009, said he likes Bratton a lot. He said Bratton will be more conservative than Williams and do a better job of finding efficiencies in government funding of education and of handling the state budget.
“He’s level-headed and has good business experience,” he said. “He’s a family man, solid, dependable and reliable. He’s gonna be passionate; he’s going to research the issues and do a great job.”