If there's one thing that can be said about Representative Greg Lewis, it's that he is willing to sit down and listen to his constituents. The Stafford County farmer and rancher has served the people of the 113th District of the Kansas House of Representatives since 2015. His district includes Pratt and Stafford counties, as […]
If there's one thing that can be said about Representative Greg Lewis, it's that he is willing to sit down and listen to his constituents.
The Stafford County farmer and rancher has served the people of the 113th District of the Kansas House of Representatives since 2015. His district includes Pratt and Stafford counties, as well as portions of Barton, Pawnee and Rice counties.
Representative Lewis said that he is running again to make sure the state moves forward with progress made over the past few years. 'We are starting to right our fiscal ship, starting to fund infrastructure. I don't want to lose the ground we have gained,' he said. He added, 'I'm not looking to go up the political ladder. I do this out of service.'
Greg listed three important priorities for the next legislative session, including the school finance bill, broadband Internet access and Medicaid expansion.
He said that the courts have required that the legislature includes a cost of living adjustment within the school finance bill. Also, the courts have underscored to the legislature that funding must be adequate and equitable. He explained this by stating that 'students in Kansas City should have the same amount of educational advantage as those living in Pratt and Dodge City.' He sees a proposed constitutional amendment to place total control of school finance with the legislature as problematic. 'If we [the legislature] had total control, we'd still be starving schools,' he said.
Broadband access is a critical part of Kansas' future, Greg said. 'Broadband access is comparable to what rural electrification was many years ago. We cannot have economic growth unless we have broadband available,' he said.
Another important issue will be Medicaid expansion. 'So far, the state has passed on $2.9 billion from the federal government. Those are Kansas tax dollars. We paid into that,' he said. He noted that 'hospitals in states without Medicaid expansion are six times more likely to close' than those who have opted out of this. He added that all of the hospitals in the 113th District want this. He cited one estimate that 150,000 Kansans would become eligible for this insurance once the legislature approves and the governor signs off on Medicaid expansion.
Another important issue, he said, will be fully funding the Kansas Department of Transportation. 'We're still sweeping a lot of money from KDOT,' he noted.
One potential future source of funding for the state would be to set up a mechanism for collecting Internet sales tax. 'This is not a new tax,' the state representative said. 'You're supposed to be self-reporting this. There are businesses outside of our state that are benefiting from this [not being collected]. We will be able to level the playing field for our businesses on Main Street by doing this. We'll have to do some legislation to get this in place.' For those who support eliminating the sales tax on food, Greg said that this could be one step in the process: 'I'm thinking that we can buy down our food sales tax with Internet sales tax revenues,' he said.
Currently, however, the outlook is positive for funding state government. 'Ever since we got out of session, each month our numbers have been running ahead of estimates,' he said.
One local service that our representative will continue to support is the Pratt Achievement Place. Currently, Pratt has the only Youth Residential Center in the State of Kansas, and Greg was a strong advocate for its continued operation. 'Some of the homes are just too broken to send those offenders back into. I believe that [Pratt Achievement Place] serves an important purpose,' he said.
With the General Election happening in just over a week, Representative Lewis offers this word of caution to voters: 'I think at this point the candidates have been very upfront about how they want to lead. Be smart. Vote wisely.'