Laura Kelly, the Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, met with The Kansas City Star editorial board and answered questions about policy and politics. Here are highlights from the conversation:
Do you think meeting the Supreme Court’s order on school spending is the goal, or should Kansas makes schools even better than what the court ordered? A Republican study that said $2 billion more may be needed.
We have to deal with some realities here. ... It is not a realistic goal. We don’t have that kind of money, no matter what we did. I’m appreciative of what the court did say, that what we did last year, what we did this year, works — as long as we account for the rate of inflation. We can do that.
Can you roll back the sales tax on food?
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Yes. We first need to stabilize our budget, and make sure we’re firmly on that road to recovery. Then, my first order of business would be to reduce the sales tax on food. It’s obscenely high right now.
We also need to look for some way to provide property tax relief for folks.
Do you want to get rid of KanCare (privatized Medicaid)?
I want to take KanCare out of the current for-profit model and move it over to a non-profit. I’m not necessarily opposed to managed care, as long as the profit motive is not there. That’s the problem we’ve experienced with managed care, particularly in home- and community-based services. There’s no way to make money on those services without reducing services or denying eligibility.
On the medical side, you can actually save money if you do preventative care and keep people out of more expensive places. ... I don’t want to keep the for-profit model for anything that has to do with public health care dollars. There’s no reason to do that.
I do want to expand Medicaid as soon as possible.
Is illegal immigration a problem in Kansas?
I think everybody recognizes that our immigration system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
...It’s clear in Kansas a vast part of our economy is dependent upon immigrant labor. We need to have a way folks can either come here permanently, or as guest workers, and provide the labor that our agricultural and manufacturing industry needs.
Can you imagine what would happen to western Kansas if we were to round everybody up and send them elsewhere? It would have a devastating impact. Not to mention it’s not very realistic to think you can do that.
Greg Orman says he can fix Topeka because he’s not a part of the system, he can bring a fresh approach. What is your reaction to that idea, that you’ve been part of the system for too long?
I don’t have an ideological bone in my body. I’m very pragmatic.
I think that people will work with somebody they trust. They will not (work) with somebody they don’t trust. Legislators trust me. They don’t know Greg Orman, but they do know me.
Kansas doesn’t need another experiment. We know what we would get with Kris Kobach. We know what we will get with me. It would be an experiment if we were to go in a different direction.