For the first time in six years, voters in Kansas House District 84 will choose between a Democrat and a Republican on Election Day.
Incumbent Gail Finney, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Republican Dan Heflin.
Since 2000, only two Republicans have mounted general election challenges for the seat in the north-central Wichita district. Each mustered less than 28 percent of the vote.
The lack of another option on the ballot propelled him to run, said Heflin. He said he is a board member of Kansans For Liberty, which has scheduled several local tea party events.
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"It's frustrating to go to the polls and not see anybody else on the ballot," he said. "I thought there should at least be a choice."
Finney, who has overcome primary challenges twice in pursuit of the seat, said she sees the opposition as an opportunity to hear differing viewpoints from constituents.
"I welcome it and I can learn from it," said Finney, who co-owns 24 Rent to Own, a furniture-rental business, with her husband, Jerold.
Finney so far has compiled a fundraising lead.
Through July 22 — the most current campaign finance filing date — she had $16,562. Heflin had $1,000, financed himself. He said his campaign will be self-funded.
Heflin, politically active since being laid off from his job at Cessna Aircraft Co. in January 2009, said he decided to run for office when the Kansas legislature passed the temporary sales tax increase earlier this year.
He holds the view that lawmakers should have cut state jobs and minimized government instead. He said he would not have favored the temporary tax increase.
Instead, he supports a tax mechanism known as the FairTax.
The Kansas FairTax system would abolish the current state income, corporate and sales tax code, Heflin said, and instead create a consumption tax that would translate to a sales tax between 5 and 7 percent. The FairTax would also eliminate several tax exemptions for various goods and services.
Heflin said this system would be more consistent than the current tax system.
Finney voted for the temporary sales tax increase.
Without it, she said, the tax burden could have been passed down through a property tax hike, which could have been more painful for her constituents.
"I thought that was the best way to manage our budget at this time," Finney said.
She said education needs to be preserved and recent cuts aren't helping the classroom.
On job creation, Finney said the Legislature should try to create attractive economic conditions for small businesses.
One example, she said, would be to guarantee certain parts of projects for businesses that are defined as "small businesses." She would also support creating another designation for smaller
businesses, micro- or mini- businesses, to level the playing field.
For example, a construction company with average annual receipts lower than $33.5 million can qualify as a "small business," based on how those firms are defined by the federal Small Business Administration.
Heflin said the Legislature should assist in creating an attractive business environment, but that certain tax incentives should not be limited to particular companies. Instead, he said, they should be spread across the business community to spur business development.
Hawker Beechcraft company and union officials met recently with Gov. Mark Parkinson. During the two-hour meeting, the company accepted a package of incentives to keep the company within Wichita.
Details of that compensation package haven't been released, but if they include lower taxes, Heflin said, the deal will inspire other businesses to ask for the government for a tax break, too.
"They're picking winners and losers with the tax code," Heflin said. "One company has concessions possibly toward taxes, another company on the other side of town doesn't have those concessions, so they are going to be the next ones to go to the government next."
The general election is Nov. 2.
Kansas House, District 84
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. Do you support or would you repeal the three-year sales tax increase passed in the 2010 session? If you would repeal it, how would you make up the lost revenue or what would you cut?
3. What, if anything, should Kansas officials do regarding the new national health care reform law?
Occupation: Small-business owner
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Wichita State University; MBA, Friends University
Political experience: Current state representative, one term; former precinct committeewoman
1. My top three priorities are job creation, preparing young people for these jobs of the future, and retraining current workers. Investment such as the highway program will guarantee that quality jobs stay in the state.
2. I do not support the repeal of this temporary 1-cent sales tax, as it is necessary to fund needed state services.
3. I believe we would be wasting valuable state resources to enter into any lawsuit in the national health care matter. We will benefit from or be subject to any ruling on that subject. We need to see how our health system can fit into the national system.
Occupation: Aeronautical engineer
Education: Bachelor's degree, aeronautical engineering, Wichita State University
Political experience: Newly elected precinct committeeman for the 108th precinct
1. Maintain a balanced budget while protecting education. Change the budget system to a zero-based budget process where all departments justify all monies spent to their mission.Establish a bonus system that rewards departments who come in under budget.
2. I would repeal the 1-cent sales tax. At the same time, I would advocate for a tax system based on the Fair Tax, which I believe would draw businesses and thus jobs to our state. If cuts are necesary, which they very well may be, I believe that the Congress as a body, based on the input of our constituents, should prioritize those things that are most important and cut those which do not fit with these priorities.
3. Express our sovereignty in that Kansans know best how to provide health care for Kansans. This should not be a federal mandate.