Guest Commentary

Guest commentary from Kris Kobach: Kansas needs a governor who will tackle issues

The Star’s editorial board recently penned an editorial following my announcement for governor. I appreciate the paper allowing me the opportunity to respond.

The editorial said the next governor should not be “a hyper-partisan ideologue.” But which of my views is so hyper-partisan? My work to stop noncitizens from voting in Kansas elections? My view that state legislators should be subject to term limits? My insistence that illegal immigration be reduced? Or my opposition to middle-class tax increases? None of these positions is hyper-partisan. In fact, public polling indicates that the vast majority of Kansans — Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated — agree with me on all of these issues.

According to the editorial board, “immigration is largely a national issue” and therefore shouldn’t be part of any gubernatorial campaign. Working to stop illegal immigration has been a focus of my career for nearly two decades. Although the federal government is the entity in charge of immigration enforcement, the Supreme Court has held that states have every right to enact laws to discourage illegal immigration. And many states, including Missouri, have done so. The reason for taking action at the state level is clear: Illegal immigration is the ultimate unfunded mandate. The lion’s share of the cost falls on state governments, not on the federal government.

Services to illegal immigrants accounted for millions of dollars in government spending in Kansas last year. A large portion of that money could be saved if illegal immigration in Kansas were reduced.

Unlike Missouri, Kansas has done absolutely nothing to discourage illegal immigration. Worse, the Kansas Legislature actually encourages illegal immigrants to remain in the state by offering them in-state tuition rates. That costs millions every year, as more than 600 illegal immigrants get a government subsidy from the Kansas taxpayer. It’s also unfair. Why should a student from Missouri who has always played by the rules pay three times as much in tuition at KU than an immigrant who is breaking the law?

There’s also a high cost in terms of public safety. Unlike Missouri, which banned sanctuary cities and counties in 2008, Kansas has four sanctuary counties at present. Those are counties where the sheriff declines to hand over illegal immigrant criminals when ICE simply makes a request. Such policies endanger the public by allowing the most dangerous illegal immigrants to remain in the community.

Finally, the editorial board refers to “the state’s failed tax experiment.” On this point the editorial board and I will always disagree. Kansans were already overtaxed, and this massive tax increase will hit every Kansan hard. And it’s not a tax hike just on the wealthy; it’s a tax hike on every Kansan.

Even worse, the tax hike didn’t have to happen. The Legislature could have balanced the budget without raising taxes. But the liberal coalition in Topeka chose raising taxes over cutting spending.

I have proven that it’s possible to reduce the size of government. In the last six years, I cut the annual spending of my office from $7 million to $4.7 million — more than a 30 percent reduction. No other elected official in Kansas has done that during the same period. And I did it without reducing services.

Meanwhile, total state spending increased from $14.7 billion to $15.5 billion. If the state budget had been held steady or had been reduced, there never would have been any “budget crisis.”

In short, Kansas government doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. If I am elected governor, I will bring government spending under control. Once that happens, we can lighten the tax burden without facing deficits. That’s what Kansans want. And I intend to deliver.

Kris Kobach is Kansas secretary of state.