Voter opinions of Gov. Sam Brownback could play a role in deciding who represents the 11th Senate District in Johnson County.
John Skubal, an Overland Park city councilman, is running against incumbent Jeff Melcher for the Senate seat Melcher first won in 2012.
While both candidates are Republicans, Skubal has been vocal about his opposition to the Brownback administration. Melcher, however, has said that the state is moving in the right direction, even if progress has been slower than some expected.
The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face Democrat Skip Fannen in the November election. Fannen is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. The district includes parts of Leawood and Overland Park.
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The tax lid, ongoing debate on education and funding sweeps from the state’s Department of Transportation “drove him over the edge” and convinced Skubal to run for office.
Skubal, who has served on the Overland Park City Council since 2007, said he’s not afraid to put property tax increases before voters. He wishes those same voters didn’t have to pay for it.
“The city of Overland Park runs much better than our state,” Skubal said. “I think that if you’re going to impose a rule like that, that you’re going to put a tax lid on government, do it to yourself.”
Like many of the candidates trying to beat incumbents this primary season, Skubal is trying to position himself as a “pro-education” candidate. But he admits nothing will get fixed until the state’s budget is under control.
“I think we have to get past this fighting and arguing over school funding,” he said. “We need to find a formula that works.”
People should not have to pay more than their fair share, Skubal said, and government should be careful whenever it raises taxes. Skubal supported Brownback in his first election, but said he’s become disappointed with the governor’s work in the years that have followed.
“Government is not free,” Skubal said. “I’ve often said if we could just take government away from everybody for one day, and let them really understand what government does for us, we probably would have a whole different philosophy. But somehow, some way, if we’re going to have the governments that we have today, we have to pay for it.”
Melcher, however supported the property tax lid and called it one of the highlights of the session. It protects from tax increases and inflated appraisal values, he said.
“What this property tax lid does just essentially says you cannot grow revenue beyond the rate of inflation without going before a vote of the people,” he said.
Investing in education continues to be important, he said, in the wake of last month’s school funding legislation. Melcher has two children in Blue Valley schools, so he has a vested interest in their success, he said.
“We just want to make sure we’re getting the money into the classroom where it belongs and providing the funding that they need,” he said.
Another focus of Melcher’s campaign is expanding the economy. He wasn’t in office in 2012 when the historic income tax cuts were passed in Topeka, but Melcher said he supported the governor. Before the Brownback administration, Kansas had been losing jobs and people, Melcher said.
“Something had to be done to change that trajectory,” he said.
Melcher attributed the recent revenue misses to declines in the global economy. Brownback echoed a similar sentiment in June as he stood behind his administration’s tax cuts and economic policies.
“People tend to want to blame the governor for a lot of the state’s budget issues, but it’s really hard to say that the Kansas government had anything to do with oil prices dropping or with commodity prices going lower and the same with the aviation industry being in a slump worldwide,” Melcher said.
“Those are just things that you have to weather that storm,” he said. “When those begin to come back, then we’ll see those parts of our economy pumping more revenue in and budget issues will just kind of not be anywhere near what they are today.”
Education: Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Occupation: CEO of NetStandard Inc.
Elected experience: Kansas Senate, 2013 to now
Education: Bachelor’s degree in education from Emporia State
Occupation: Business development for Kaw Valley Engineering
Elected experience: Overland Park City Council, 2007 to now