The race for House District 105 features one candidate who says government reaches too far into private lives and another who says state budget cuts have impaired its ability to deliver vital services.
The incumbent, Republican Rep. Gene Suellentrop, says taxes are already too high and that the state's budget can be balanced through systematic and proportional cuts to agencies and services.
Democrat Jane Byrnes says too many services have already been eliminated. She supports the temporary sales tax increase passed in the 2010 legislative session. And she would go further, supporting an increase to the sales tax on alcohol.
The candidates, running for a state seat that spans parts of northwest Wichita and portions of Delano and Park townships, differ on many issues.
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Suellentrop, 58, is president of In the Sauce Brands, which primarily serves as franchisor of Gambino's Pizza, a chain with more than 50 restaurants in five states. He was chosen by the Sedgwick County Republicans in December 2009 to replace Jason Watkins, who resigned.
In seeking election, Suellentrop is looking for an opportunity to work with a Republican governor, putting his hopes in gubernatorial candidate U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.
"We've always been a Republican state, but we always haven't been a real conservative state," Suellentrop said. "I think we will become a more conservative state."
Byrnes, a licensed and registered dietitian, ran for the same seat in 2006, but lost. She had 39.7 percent of the vote to Watkins' 60.2 percent.
She said her experience as a dietitian would provide a unique background in the Legislature. Being in Topeka, rather than a standalone advocate, will allow her to influence changes within the nutrition industry.
"As a dietitian and a wellness advocate, I realize that to (effect change), you need to exist at a policy level," she said. "E-mailing your representative has such a small impact compared to being at the table."
Byrnes has so far doubled Suellentrop in fundraising, compiling $11,845 in the period from Jan. 1 until July 22. Of that, $4,255 came through donations $50 or less.
"I am awestruck about the confidence people have in me," Byrnes said.
In the same period, Suellentrop raised $5,850, $3,000 of which he gave himself.
From July 23 to July 28, Suellentrop reported raising an additional $1,500.
Both are quick to note that constituents are focused on job creation. The temporary sales tax increase, which took effect in July, is another key issue.
Suellentrop voted against the tax increase. He favored a plan to sell excess property owned by the state.
To create jobs, he said, the state should remove grants for particular businesses and provide favorable tax rates across the board.
Some organizations are exempt from paying taxes on certain goods and services. Suellentrop favors taxing those organizations the same way as businesses that are in direct competition.
Then, the market can compete fairly, he said.
Byrnes pointed toward federal programs used in the 1930s and 1940s that created employment, particularly in national parks and forests.
"The Legislature should do things parallel to some of the programs used in the Great Depression. We could look into the future to build things that might not have much payback now, but will in the future," she said.
She suggested alternative transportation projects. One example, she said, would be to shift dollars designated for street repairs to re-line streets with bike lanes. Byrnes said that could also encourage more commuters to use bicycles.
Suellentrop has other plans for the state transportation budget: trimming it.
"The previous governor continuously raided that fund to balance the budget," he said. "If that... can be used for balancing the budget, there is an excess amount of agency money."
She said she would have supported the temporary sales tax increase. Instead of making budget cuts if state revenues do not match projections, she suggested an increase to taxes on alcohol and other "recreational foods."
That idea was proposed last session by two Republican state representatives from Johnson County. The bill, which died in committee, called for an increase to wholesale liquor, wine and beer taxes in order to provide for programming related to the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
"It will not be popular," Byrnes said. "But I'm willing to talk about that issue."
Suellentrop said he would not support a tax increase for alcohol.
"We don't need to tax people to move them into buying more or less goods and services," he said. "That's not the government's job."
Kansas' 125 state representatives are elected to two-year terms. They develop and debate laws and approve the state's budget during a 90-day legislative session. They are paid $88.66 per day and get $116 per day in expenses while in session or attending interim committee meetings.
1. What are your top three budget priorities, in order, and where should the money come from?
2. What, if any, changes would you like to see made to the state’s late-term abortion laws?
3. Are taxes on Kansas businesses too high, too low or adequate?
Occupation: Registered, licensed dietitian
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Kansas, master's degree, Kansas State University
Political experience: None
1. Jobs that will stay in Kansas. Sustainable funding for schools. Renewable energy and clean air.
2. Laws have gone as far as they can or should go. The next step in pro-life emotion must be away from legalisms, toward compassion from the time of conception until natural death. Legislative efforts must re-direct taxpayers, neighbors, churches and families to notice and to protect neglected or abused babies, children, teens and seniors.
3. Adequate. Many small business owners I've talked to feel they pay their fair share. Small businesses are vitally important to future jobs that will stay in Kansas. Property taxes are too high.
Occupation: Business owner
Education: Business administration
Political experience: State legislator since 2009
1. I have no new budget priorities. All services needed by the citizens of Kansas are provided. We have adequate funding at this time. Some agencies and services are overfunded.
2. Abortion should not be allowed.
3. At this time, too high.