Voters in the Shawnee area will have a mini-referendum on the policies of Gov. Sam Brownback when they choose a statehouse representative from the 18th District on Nov. 4.
Democratic Challenger Cindy Neighbor says incumbent Republican John Rubin has consistently voted Brownback’s way on tax and education policy. Rubin, meanwhile, says Neighbor has support from the state’s teachers unions.
The candidates, both from Shawnee, have each spent some time representing the area. Neighbor held the seat for one term as a Republican and two more terms as a Democrat. Rubin is nearing the end of his second term this year.
The two differ markedly in their views of the income tax cuts championed by Brownback. Rubin would like to speed up the elimination of state income tax. “I’m a supply-sider. Always have been, always will be,” Rubin said.
The income tax system is filled with tax breaks for businesses that have the means to hire lobbyists, he said. He added that income tax cuts have stimulated the economy in states that have tried them, and that the states doing the best economically are the ones that don’t have income tax.
The lost revenue will be more than compensated for by other revenues as the state’s economy grows, Rubin said.
Neighbor differed, saying the loss of tax revenue will be passed down to cities and counties that won’t have any options but to increase property tax. “It’s basic math. If you have less money coming in you aren’t going to have as much to pay the bills,” she said.
Neighbor said the state should freeze the income tax and not continue with any cuts until state budget analysts have a better idea of how things are going. She said raising taxes in the future might have to be considered, if the budget figures warrant it.
Education is a top priority for Neighbor. She said she is concerned about cuts in school budgets and will fight for more funding from the Legislature.
Rubin said he believes schools in Kansas have adequate or better than adequate funding. He said lawmakers should focus on making sure state money ends up being spent on classrooms rather than unnecessary levels of administration.
The two also differed on the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. Neighbor said medical assistance is important because of growing poverty rates in the state and Johnson County, and that expansion of Medicaid is something that has to be at least considered.
Rubin supported a bill that required the decision for expanding Medicaid to be made by state lawmakers rather than the governor. That effectively stopped the program from being expanded this year.
DEMOCRAT CINDY NEIGHBOR
Education: Certification for sedation dentistry, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2012; studied at Johnson County Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College
Occupation: Works in sedation dentistry
Elected experience: Shawnee Mission school board, 1996-present; Kansas House, 2002-2004 and 2006-2010.
REPUBLICAN JOHN RUBIN
Education: Bachelor’s in political science, Boston College, 1970; law degree Washington University St. Louis, 1973
Occupation: Attorney; arbitrator for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
Elected experience: Kansas House, 2011-present.