Kansas House incumbent Barbara Bollier is seeking re-election against newcomer Neil Melton.
Melton and Bollier are vying to represent the 21st District, which includes parts of Leawood, Overland Park, Mission Hills and Prairie Village. The winner of the Aug. 5 Republican primary will face Democrat Amy Bell of Prairie Village in the Nov. 4 general election.
They differ on taxes, Medicaid and energy standards.
Bollier, a retired physician from Mission Hills, has lived in the district for 45 years. She was first elected to office in 2010.
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Bollier supports a balanced three-pronged tax system instead of the current system, which aims to cut income taxes. A three-part tax system, which relies on property, sales and income taxes, provides a safeguard if revenue drops in one area, she said. Cutting the income tax has dramatically reduced revenue and placed the state budget in a funding crisis, she said. The state’s tax income was $338 million less than originally expected, and as a result the state had to borrow more than $600 million this year, she said.
“Right now we’re in a crisis,” Bollier said. “We can’t keep borrowing millions of dollars.”
She voted against repealing the state’s renewable portfolio standard six times. The standard requires energy companies to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Increasing the amount of renewable energy has been a boost to the economy and is good for the environment, she said. Also, the state has already invested money in renewable energy, so she said repealing the standard would be detrimental. She further criticized the push to repeal the standard by saying corporate lobbyists such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, not the general public, had asked for the repeal.
Education and Medicaid both need more funding, she said, but current state revenue will not have room for increased spending. Funding Medicaid is a responsible way of putting tax dollars back into the economy and is also a social justice issue, she said.
“As a physician, I cannot support allowing some people in Kansas to have no care or limited care,” she said.
If revenue streams increase, she would like to spend more not only on education and Medicaid, but also on mental health. Mental health facilities, adult education, adult day care programs and other programs need more funding, she said. Not properly funding mental health programs can increase costs elsewhere.
“It raises other costs when people end up in our justice system, in court or in jail,” she said. “They need to be cared for properly.”
Melton, a mortgage banker from Prairie Village, has lived in Johnson County since graduating from college in 2007. He supports the 2012 income tax cuts because, he said, he has visited with several people from his district who have started businesses because of the tax cuts. In response to criticism that the income tax cuts have hurt the economy, Melton said the economy is fluid and could improve over time.
“We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns right now,” Melton said.
Other states that have cut the income tax have raised the sales tax, which he said could be a way for Kansas to recoup lost revenue. He added, however, that he doesn’t support higher sales taxes.
Although Melton said he sees the potential for wind and other renewable energy sources in Kansas, he does not support mandating that power companies derive a certain percentage from them. He suggested waiting until sources such as wind and the sun have proved to be as reliable as traditional sources before mandating their use.
Melton said he’s not sure expanding Medicaid is a reliable long-term solution to health care issues because it puts a lot of pressure on the state budget. Instead, he said, the state should explore options that reduce the cost of insurance plans so people can get coverage from the private marketplace.
“We can’t borrow money for these things the way the federal government can,” he said.
On education funding, he said he supports a local option budget, which gives school districts the power to determine how much money they need and to raise local taxes accordingly.
Education: Bachelor’s in human biology, University of Kansas, 1980; M.D., University of Kansas Medical School, 1984
Occupation: Retired physician
Elected experience: House, 2010-present
Education: Bachelor’s in communication studies, University of Kansas, 2007
Occupation: Mortgage banker
Elected experience: None