Hot issues grab voters’ attention in Kansas and Missouri

08/02/2014 10:00 AM

08/02/2014 3:00 PM

Voters will make crucial decisions regarding many political offices and a host of ballot issues on Tuesday.

Some of the elections will affect tax rates for years to come, while others could influence which party will have more political influence in Kansas and Missouri.

Our picks for hot races:

Missouri’s transportation tax

Voters need to be practical on Tuesday and say “yes” to Constitutional Amendment No. 7, the three-quarter cent statewide sales tax increase that would last 10 years.

It would not only repair crumbling roads and bridges but also could help complete important transit projects in Missouri. That eventually could include Kansas City’s streetcar expansion. This region could get more than $775 million worth of upgrades, including a new Broadway Bridge. Also, the state would widen I-70 from Kansas City to St. Louis. It’s positive that the tax would not be collected on food or medicine, reducing the burden on lower-income residents.

Kansas City’s streetcar district

Supporters of Question A, which would create a transportation development district in a large part of the city south of the Missouri River, are fending off misleading attacks by some critics. The most off-base one is that approval of Question A would saddle residents with higher taxes. No, it wouldn’t.

The Star favors a “yes” vote on Tuesday because it would keep alive the possibility of extending the streetcar line, providing more time for debate before the November election. That’s when voters would decide whether they want to pay higher taxes for the project.

Farming in Missouri

Ignore the trite talk that Constitutional Amendment No. 1 is all about the “right to farm” in Missouri. That right isn’t under attack in the state. In reality, the amendment is a bid to protect factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations that are needed to protect consumers, the environment and livestock.

A “no” vote would ensure that Missouri retains crucial powers to protect consumers and communities from big-farming tactics that, for instance, can release noxious animal waste. The courts would have the final say on what this vaguely worded amendment actually means. Voters can avoid costly and lengthy legal challenges by rejecting it.

Statewide races in Kansas

The Republican primary between U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts and radiologist Milton Wolf has devolved into character assassination as well as attempts by both to position themselves as far right as possible. Roberts is the less objectionable candidate. He deserves to advance, but we hope he gets tested in November by Democrat Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County district attorney. Taylor would be a moderate and knowledgeable challenger.

The Republican primary for secretary of state features a candidate who has three years of service on the Federal Election Commission and wants to increase voter participation. That’s Scott Morgan, who’s clearly the better choice over Kris Kobach. The four-year incumbent pushed through one of the nation’s harshest voter-suppression laws; voter turnout also fell between 2008 and 2012 in Kansas. That’s a disturbing trend Morgan hopes to reverse — but which Kobach seems determined to make even worse.

State Sen. Clark Shultz is the best choice on the Republican side to replace the highly competent Sandy Praeger as insurance commissioner. Shultz is a title insurance agent, chairs the Senate insurance committee and has a reputation as an evenhanded advocate for consumers. Others in the race spend too much time complaining about the Affordable Care Act.

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