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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Gubernatorial candidate predicts education will be a hot issue

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  • Democratic Rep. Paul Davis, the 41-year-old minority leader in the Kansas House and candidate for governor, isn't willing to second guess how the Kansas Supreme Court will rule in the educational funding issue now waiting their decision.
    "I don't predict what the (Supreme Court) judges will do. They can be unpredictable," Davis said. "Conventional wisdom says they will probably uphold the lower court decision."
    In "Gannon vs. the State of Kansas" the argument was made that the Legislature was not upholding the Kansas Constitution, specifically Article Six that that calls for the State Legislature to fund education equal to the cost amounts of their own studies.
    The District Court of Shawnee County found in favor of the schools then the issue went before the Supreme Court that is now deciding if they will or will not uphold the lower court ruling. If they find in favor to the lower court the funding issue goes back to Topeka.
    K-12 and Higher education are both feeling impact of education cuts.
    Davis said Kansas is behind the curve on career and technical education. When companies look for places to locate, they look for state that can provide a skilled work force.
    Keeping community colleges and four-year universities funded is vital to producing that workforce especially in the oil and gas industry that is growing in Kansas.
    If the funding issue lands back in the Kansas Legislature it's going to be a pretty hot debate on what to do, Davis said.
    Two years ago, Davis offered a plan to the Legislature that would have restored funding and cut property taxes. It could be done over a period of several years, Davis said.
    However, Gov. Brownback pushed though a cut in income tax that only benefited the top end of the scale and put the state budget in the red. The next year he had to ask for a tax increase. Now the money just isn't there for properly fund education, Davis said.
    "We're in a difficult situation," Davis said. "Brownback's tax break for those with high income is not working."
    Property taxes have gone up in 86 or 105 counties under Brownback's administration and that "scares the heck" out of those with fixed income, Davis said.
    He wants the state to take steps forward on the property tax issue or in several years he expects to see a property tax revolt.
    The economy needs to be in much better shape to grow revenue. But the state is lagging in job growth and that means less personal income so people are spending less.
    Part of the reason revenue isn't growing is that the state is not creating economic opportunities like other states, Davis said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Davis said he expects Gov. Brownback's camp to fight the court ruling if they uphold the lower court finding and that they will want to change the constitution.
    Education funding concerns both urban and rural areas especially after Brownback helped make the largest cut in K-12 funding in history resulting in larger class sizes and teacher layoffs.
    Economic growth depends a great deal on a good infrastructure. Davis was heavily involved with the passing to the 2010 T-Works bill that has created 175,000 jobs, the biggest jobs program in state history, Davis said.
    Money has been moved from transportation in the past but the state can't realize its potential if it keeps taking money out of the transportation fund.
    Money impacts all areas of the state economy including farm insurance costs. Kansas needs to work hard to get as many companies as possible to create a competitive market place and provide affordable insurance for farmers.
    Davis said the middle class is being buried with high sales taxes, property taxes and high tuition and he is prepared to do something about it.
    With the largest cut in education spending, some $66 million, it's time for a change.
    "We have a governor that has us going in the wrong direction. I'm the person to turn that around and get us going in the right direction," Davis said.
    Davis grew up in Lawrence and graduated from Lawrence High School. Both his parents are educators. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas and graduated from Washburn University where he received his law degree.
    He became a state representative in 2003 and has been the House minority leader since 2008. When the Legislature is not in session, he maintains a law practice.
    He currently lives in Lawrence with his wife Stephanie who is a psychologist and works with homeless veterans through the Veterans Administration.
    They have a four-year-old daughter and two dogs.
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