Joco 913

Focus on taxes challenges a focus on social issues

Benjamin Hodge, candidate for Johnson County Commission Third District
Benjamin Hodge, candidate for Johnson County Commission Third District

For Benjamin Hodge, challenger in the Third District race for the Johnson County Commission, the campaign boils down to taxes and spending. Taxes are too high, he says, and spending is out of control.

For Steve Klika, who has represented the area since 2013, quality-of-life issues like support for education, public safety and social issues take the front seat.

Voters in the southeastern corner of the county, which includes southern Overland Park and Stilwell, will decide Nov. 8 which candidate to send to a four-year term overseeing county government.

Hodge, who has been politically active in the county helping fiscal conservatives get elected, said via email that property and sales tax rates are his primary reason for running.

“The current group of county commissioners is either uninterested or incapable of budgeting and they will continue to increase taxes in the coming years,” he said.

With population growth expanding the tax base and land values increasing faster than inflation, the county can lower tax rates and still get the same amount of revenue, he said, promising never to vote for a tax increase “until we’ve exhausted all options at cutting waste.”

He cited favorable ratings he got when he was in the Kansas Legislature from Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Taxpayers Association.

Hodge also favors a requirement to put all property tax increases, regardless of size, to a public vote. Such a requirement recently passed the Kansas Legislature and will take effect on the next budget cycle.

He said if elected, he would support laws that require a vote before land is taken through eminent domain or annexation.

Klika cites education as a top issue in his campaign for re-election. Although the county commission has little control over most educational issues, he said it’s important that the county lend its support for a strong educational system.

“We’ve got to be guardians for a strong school system because it’s important to our economic development in the county,” he said.

Now that big decisions have been made on expanding libraries and parks, redoing the former King Louie bowling lanes into an art center and sending the courthouse question to the voters, Klika said he looks forward to addressing some pressing social issues such as mental health, aging and poverty that have the potential to become public safety issues.

With state funding cuts, it will be a battle to address problems of vulnerable groups, he said.

Klika said he’ll continue to push for public transportation in the county because of the economic benefits. “It’s work access, work access, work access. We have companies with employees that need to get their employees there,” he said.

Klika became chairman of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority earlier this year.

Steve Klika

Age: 62

Education: Bachelor’s in public administration and political science, Oklahoma State University, 1977; master’s in business administration, Oklahoma City University, 1987

Occupation: Management consultant

Elected experience: Blue Valley Board of Education, 2005-2013; Johnson County Commission, 2013-present

Website: steveklika.com

Benjamin Hodge

Age: 36

Education: Bachelor’s in electronic journalism, Kansas State University, 2003; master’s in business administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2011

Occupation: Licensed insurance adviser specializing in Medicare-related insurance

Elected experience: Kansas House of Representatives 2007-2008; Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, 2005-2009

Website: benjaminhodge.org

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