Politics & Government

Dems to target property taxes, Brownback agenda

TOPEKA — With the primary over, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, says Democrats are ready to start pushing their message that property taxes are too high and that electing Democrats is the only way to slow down Gov. Sam Brownback’s “very right wing social agenda.”

Davis said Tuesday’s primary, in which conservatives likely gained control of the Senate, represents “a hard right turn” in Kansas politics that is bad for public schools, workers’ rights and women’s rights, as well as the elderly, poor and disabled. He said Democrats will campaign heavily on a pledge to cut property taxes instead of going forward with conservatives’ plans to continue to cut corporate and individual income taxes.

“I think the property tax frustration is there,” he said Wednesday morning.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, meanwhile said that statewide less than 14 percent of voters turned out to vote in the Republican primary.

“I dare say that that is not a referendum on Sam Brownback,” Hensley said. “That’s what the general is about.”

Hensley said Democrats will challenge Brownback’s proposals to reform how the state finances K-12 education.

“We think the Brownback agenda will force school closures, teacher layoffs or higher property taxes,” he said, adding moderate Republican candidates didn’t stress that message enough in their races against conservatives who had strong backing from Brownback or the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

Statewide, 10 incumbent Republicans, including Senate President Steve Morris, were ousted from the Senate.

Democrats say Brownback’s education plan, which largely fell apart during debate in the Legislature earlier this year, limits state funding for schools and leaves it up to local school districts to decide whether to raise property taxes to improve their children’s education or let education deteriorate.

Hensley said Democrats have candidates running for 31 of the 40 seats up for election in the Senate. He highlighted the race between Democrat Juanita Roy and Rep. Greg Smith, a Republican, in Johnson County and the race between Democrat Tom Hawk and Republican Bob Reader in Manhattan as examples of competitive races.

Democrats currently hold eight seats in the Senate.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said Brownback will continue to push forward with his “Roadmap for Kansas” goals of increasing net personal incomes, private sector employment, the number of high school graduates who are college or career ready and decreasing the number of kids living in poverty.

“Like in the primary, we look forward to a debate on the issues important to Kansans such as smaller government, repealing Obamacare and properly funding essential services like schools, social services, and public safety," she said in a statement.

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