No matter who wins Nov. 8, the residents of the 18th Kansas House district will have a new representative.
Two well-known Shawnee residents are vying for the title: Shawnee Mission school board member Cindy Neighbor and Shawnee City Councilman Eric Jenkins. The seat became vacant this year because incumbent John Rubin did not run for re-election. Last session Rubin was in a well-publicized tiff with House Speaker Ray Merrick, who removed him from his committee chairmanship.
As in many of the statehouse races, this one revolves around the state’s revenue stream, the tax policies of Gov. Sam Brownback and school funding.
Neighbor said she wants to return to the House, where she previously served two terms as a Democrat and one as a Republican, to address problems with policies Brownback has championed.
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“We are a state that is in debt, and we need to get that corrected,” she said.
The income tax exemption for limited liability corporations was intended to help small businesses but has been taken advantage of by large ones, she said. Far more businesses take it than original estimates, she added.
Neighbor said she’d look at measures that would pinpoint how a business could qualify for that tax exemption that would improve the state’s economy. “The purpose of it was to hire more employees and get business to grow, and that has not happened,” she said.
As for the sales tax, Neighbor said she would like to see a reduction in the rate charged for groceries.
Neighbor also said the state needs an education funding formula that is inclusive enough that different areas of the state can stop fighting one another. The local option budget, for instance, was intended for programs oriented to specific districts and should not go into the base state aid, she said.
Jenkins is running to put his experience to work in growing the state’s economy, he said.
The exemption for LLCs was originally a good idea, he said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out as well as people hoped because people were taking advantage of it,” he said, specifying larger businesses.
He said the exemption is still a good idea, but perhaps with some limits. Lawmakers could cap the size of participating businesses, he said, or put a time limit on the benefit, “so we don’t get into the situation where people making millions of dollars are getting the tax break.”
Jenkins is also not happy with the sales tax rate. “Sales tax is one of the most regressive taxes,” he said. “It takes away from people who are just getting by.” Jenkins said he’d like to see the tax set aside for food and some clothing.
On his website, Jenkins says the state must keep a handle on debt, which will end up threatening higher taxes to pay debt service.
Education: Studied at Kansas City Kansas Community College; certificate in sedation dentistry, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Occupation: Retired dental sedation specialist and chief financial officer of dental business
Elected experience: Shawnee Mission school board and previous advisory board, 1986-present; Kansas House of Representatives, 2002-2004, 2006-2010
Education: Bachelor’s in history, Missouri State University, 1970; master’s in geography, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 1980
Occupation: Retired manager Federal Emergency Management Agency; retired Army Reserve
Elected experience: Shawnee City Council 2015-present