Monday, March 12, 2018

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Stops in Baldwin City, Talks Taxes, Economy Healthcare and Education

Kevin Surbaugh

Gubernatorial Candidate Jim Barnett and his wife Rosie.
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh
 One of the candidates for Governor made a stop in Baldwin City recently, with his wife Rosie beside him. Jim Barnett is a lifelong Kansan. He grew up and worked on his family’s farm as a boy in the Reading area, where he attended and graduated from Reading High School. His post-secondary education includes a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Emporia State in Chemistry and he obtained his Doctorate in Medicine from Kansas Medical School.
Barnett, who was the Republican nominee for Governor in 2006, was first elected in 1991 when he was elected to the Emporia School Board of Education (USD 253). A position he held until 1999, serving as School Board President from 1993 to 1997.  During this same period, he was involved in the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, the Diversity Council where he served as Chairman and the Rotary International. Barnett also served in the Kansas State Senate, representing the state's 17th District, which is based in Emporia and includes the surrounding areas and was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.
In 2009 he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Congress in the First District but lost to Tim Huelskamp, who in turn won the seat.  After that loss, Barnett resigned his seat in the Senate to move to Topeka, where he accepted a position at the Cotton O'Neil Clinic there. In total, he has practiced medicine for 35 almost 36-years.
 While in Baldwin City, Barnett said that he would like to see taxes as low as they can be. With that said, he said there were three things that were essential to all Kansans. Things they don't mind funding. Those being Education, roads, and seniors. He explained by being critical of Former Governor Sam Brownback's tax experiment, which he called a  failed experiment. Barnett said that he wished it had worked.  Last year the legislature made a difficult decision and overrode Brownback's veto  The legislature has another tough decision this year. The budget isn't balanced and hasn't been for at least a decade, borrowing from  KDOT to bail out the state's general fund. A fact that is hurting the maintenance of the state's roads.
When asked about the state's "Balanced Budget Amendment," he explained that by state statute the state is to have a 7.5% ending balance, however, the legislature for several years has voted to ignore that.
The state is lagging behind neighboring states. The next Governor will have to make some tough decisions. Those decisions will have to figure out how to grow the state's economy.  There are 48,000 open jobs, good paying jobs like electricians and welders. Jobs that the state doesn't have enough citizens to fill.
 "If we fill these these jobs they would pay taxes," Barnett said. 
Continuing, he said that the state must change its focus. from credits to careers. In the 90's he explained there was a heavy emphasis on college education. Not everyone is suited for college, they go then have a huge bill to pay and can't find a job. Technical college may be a better option for many of the students.
Some jobs don't pay enough for a four-year degree, the message the state ends up sending is that as a state "we don't value teachers." If elected Governor, Barnett says his administration will have a "real value on teachers. The next Governor has to get the state back out of the courts, with the multi-year litigation regarding the school finance.  The current series of court arguments date back to Governor Joan Finney's administration. That is six Governors, three were Democrats, three were Republicans.  (Finney, Graves, Sebelius, Parkinson, Brownback, and Colyer) that have had some hand in the ongoing fight for funding.
Something he considers a passion of his is healthcare access. Which includes Medicaid expansion. In part, he said it is the humanitarian thing to do.  There are those in the state that at no fault of their own who can't afford health insurance.
The other half of healthcare access is healthcare in every community.
"If you don't have access to healthcare in your community, people aren't going to come to work in your business', Barnett said.
He said that the state, the next governor, specifically must figure out how to attract and retain more young people to the state. As Governor, he wants to attract people, especially youth.  He said that his campaign is focused on three words or phrases. One, Unite and Work Together. With those in mind, they developed the campaign theme #OneKansas.

Most candidates, do not choose a running mate until the legislature has adjourned, still, he was asked about a running mate. He hasn't chosen one yet, he did, however, layout some items he is looking for in the person that he chooses. The ideal candidate would have the same passion to fix the state that he has and be someone, that should something happen to him, would be able to step in the next day and continue the leadership of Kansas.
As for the hot-button issue of gun control, he pointed to the Brownback/Colyer administration for dismantling the state behavioral health system. The growing number of mental health issues in the schools is alarming. Job one he said is rebuilding the system. He said he doesn't support arming teachers. However, if teachers, principle, and staff know of an individual that has issues and has access to weapons, something needs to be done. A system set up so that authorities can be notified and weapons can be taken from the individual before anything happens so that there is not another Parkland.

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