Politics & Government

Wichita Republican will try to regain seat in Kansas House

Former legislator Joseph Scapa, a Wichita Republican, said he’s entering the race for the state House of Representatives with some bold ideas.

Scapa was defeated by Democrat Rep. Patricia Sloop in 2012, after his district was redrawn.

Scapa said he will attack Sloop for not “holding the line on property taxes.” He said he wants to add transparency to the property tax process. While he was in the Legislature, Scapa sponsored a bill that would restrict the control of local units of government over property taxes.

If the value of a property rises, Scapa thinks the mill levee on that property should automatically be reduced so that the same dollar amount is collected for taxes. If local governments want to increase the mill levee, it would require a vote.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh said this restriction would “handicap” local government. “Decisions on mill levee and the assessment should be left to local government,” Unruh said. Property taxes are based on value, and therefore are never stable, Unruh explained. While the value of some properties increases – and with that the revenue collected – the values of other properties will fall.

“Because it’s never a stable market,” Unruh said.

Scapa said his policy still allows local governments to collect more revenue, but that they should have to vote first. The House passed a similar bill last year and Sloop voted it against it, Scapa said.

Sedgwick County and the city of Wichita raised concern over such a plan before the 2014 session.

Scapa said his focus is on jobs.

“The key issue is getting people back to work,” Scapa said in a phone call Friday. He said income tax cuts are a “piece of the puzzle” but that other measures, like increasing support of technical education, are also needed.

Scapa said that technical education gives students the ability to learn a trade that will help them pay for an advanced degree if they seek it.

Sloop, a member of the House Taxation Committee and a former social worker, called the income tax cuts “unfair” last week because they’ve primarily benefited the wealthy.

She said this has failed to create more jobs.

“We’re not growing,” Sloop said. “We’re not improving our job statistics.” She repeated a common Democratic talking point based on a November jobs report that said 16,000 fewer Kansans are working than before Gov. Sam Brownback took office.

Scapa said his other big goal is making Kansas “energy independent.”

“If we could open up some of the public land for energy production, we would not need the Middle East,” Scapa said, speaking on a national level.

Scapa said the state needs to research how it can best use its natural resources. He also said the state should reduce regulations to help increase oil and natural gas production.

“Kansas has a vast abundance of natural resources,” he said.