Monday, July 16, 2018

Meet Jeff Colyer, Republican for Governor

Kevin Surbaugh

Governor Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon from the Kansas City area, was elected Lieutenant Governor, and succeeded Governor Brownback when Brownback accepted an Ambassadorship in Washington, D. C. Colyer has run ads recently trying to help people recognize him and how to say his name.
Colyer who took over for Brownback wants his own dully elected seat in the Governors chair.
Governor Jeff Colyer (File Photo)

Baldwin City Gazette: Would you make any changes to Kansas' state taxes? What would those specific changes be and why?

Governor Jeff Colyer:  My highest priority is to make Kansas the place where our children see their future. To do that, they need to have opportunities to succeed and thrive right here at home. Low taxes can help businesses create these opportunities. This is due to the fact that tax policy is a crucial factor when businesses make decisions about where they should relocate or grow, and a low tax environment reduces costs on businesses to allow them to focus on entrepreneurship and job creation.
I worked as a White House Fellow for President Reagan, and this experience helped form my philosophy as a low-tax fiscal conservative. I have never voted to raise taxes. I support common-sense solutions to lower both sales and income tax rates in Kansas and certainly oppose another tax increase. I will also veto any property tax increase legislation that comes to my desk. For a state dealing with stagnant population growth, common sense tells us that continuing to raise taxes higher than our neighbors will only exacerbate that problem.
As Governor, I will support policies that keep taxes low on families and businesses, while ensuring they are predictable, fair, and easy to understand for everyone.

Gazette: While high school graduation rates have risen above 80 percent in recent years, college readiness rates remain much lower. Fewer than half of graduating seniors leave high school on track to earn even a “C” in college courses. And about 40% of those who enroll in college are placed in remedial courses. This means a huge percentage of high school diplomas handed out every year are empty promises. What will you do to close this college and career readiness gap in your state? And what will you do to ensure parents get more honest information about their children’s readiness for success after high school?

Colyer: College and career readiness is absolutely a critical outcome for our graduating high school students. We must continue to work with communities and businesses to provide a platform for integrating education from secondary to higher education so that our kids are prepared for the jobs of the future. That's why I created the Governor's Education Council, bringing education and business stakeholders together to discuss how we can best prepare students to succeed in the 21st-century economy.
I want to see more options for students coming out of high school. Many people can benefit from apprenticeship programs and technical education programs, which is why I proposed and signed into law full funding for career and technical education tuition so Kansas high school students can take technology education courses for free before they even have their high school diplomas. I don’t think it’s realistic to assume a typical four-year post-secondary education is the best option for everyone, and I intend to encourage more opportunities for young people to receive the education and training they need to thrive in our workforce.
I believe that targeted investments in public education will yield strong results. When I became Governor, I called on the Legislature to keep schools open, invest in education over multiple years without raising taxes, and focus on improving student outcomes. We got it done.
Importantly, the school finance bill I supported will give parents good information about their children's readiness for success after high school through additional outcomes measures and optional assessments. The bill I signed includes measurable outcomes through the accreditation process, which are absolutely key to improving college and career readiness. If you don’t measure it, you won’t improve it, so outcomes are absolutely key to continuing to improve education for our Kansas students. The bill requires the state board to measure all school districts with the Kansans Can outcomes and to establish rigorous accountability metrics in several areas, including graduation and postsecondary success.
Additionally, the school finance bill I supported and signed gives every student across the state the opportunity to take both the ACT college entrance examination and the WorkKeys skills assessments once during their high school career at no cost to the students' families. These metrics and assessments will help students, parents, and teachers determine whether they are truly prepared for whatever comes next.
I look forward to building upon the work we did together this year to continue to address these challenges and improve the outlook for Kansas students. Education is an economic driver for us, and our strong education system is one big reason families and businesses move to Kansas. I want Kansas to be a place where our children see their futures, and we absolutely cannot grow the state if we do not adequately invest in our students who are our future workforce. I believe we can increase our investment in education without raising taxes, improve our graduation and post-secondary effectiveness rates, redesign schools to focus on student learning, hire the best teachers and behavioral health professionals for student growth, and improve college and career readiness, and we will do it together.

Gazette: What do you think will be your biggest obstacle in accomplishing your goals as governor, and how do you plan to address that obstacle?

Colyer: While I've only been in office a short time, we've already accomplished a lot. We helped improve the culture of state government by strengthening sexual harassment prevention policies, allowing easier open records access for Kansans, ensuring Governor's staff use public emails for official business, providing better public access to open meetings (, and tracking and posting agency performance metrics ( We increased our investments in K-12 and higher education, reformed the child welfare system, publicized a list of child support evaders, created a Substance Use Disorder Task Force, advocated for Kansas' interests on foreign trade issues, called for a pro-life constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court overrules our abortion limits, and successfully asked utilities to return millions to consumers. We banned the box to give ex-offenders a chance to become productive members of society, upgraded our state's credit rating, named new staff in key agencies and positions, re-procured our KanCare contracts, deployed Blackhawks to successfully combat wildfires, and launched new workforce services like My (Re)Employment Plan and We've been busy, and my staff is worn out from keeping surgeon hours instead of politician hours. However, it hasn't been easy. There have been obstacles along the way, and I know there will continue to be. One of the biggest obstacles to accomplishing our goals will come from those who are opposed to moving Kansas forward due to political disagreement. Whether that opposition comes in the way of political figureheads, pundits, and critics, or just those who believe it can't be done, there will certainly be headwinds to true reform. I respect people's right to disagree, but it is my hope that we can work together to move our state forward.
I am not your typical politician. I am a problem solver pure and simple. That’s just how I’ve operated (quite literally) for all of my professional life. As a surgeon, you work with what you’ve got to solve the problems in front of you. And that’s how I operate as Governor. That means working closely with the legislature--both parties--to find solutions that work for Kansans. That being said, I am a conservative. Those are my values and that’s how I’ll lead. But I understand how crucial it is to reach out to collaborate with those who are not. At the end of the day, our job is to come together and enact policies that work for the people of Kansas. That is how I will attempt to overcome this obstacle.

Gazette: Should Kansas raise the minimum wage? What is a fair wage?

Colyer: I'm a big believer in the power of work. Gainful employment is absolutely critical for success in life. That is why I think Kansas' minimum wage should stay where it is currently. Increases in the minimum wage almost always lead to job losses for workers with fewer skills. For those workers who are able to keep their jobs after a minimum wage hike, many will be penalized with reduced hours or benefits as businesses look to cut costs elsewhere to pay for the higher wages. Higher minimum wages also tend to increase prices for consumers, as many businesses can't absorb the higher labor costs without passing along some of the extra costs to those who are buying their products and services.
I know how important a quality workforce is. Our unemployment rate is around 3.4 percent. Many are benefiting from the growth of the Trump economy. We have over 50,000 job openings right now, and more job vacancies than unemployed workers. We truly have jobs looking for people. Raising the minimum wage and making it harder for people to get jobs is the last thing we need. Finding solutions to these issues will take hard work and true Kansas grit. First, we need to raise the entire skillset of our workforce. That’s why I signed into law increased funding for technical education and innovative programs that feature collaboration between private industry and higher education.
Second, we need to go back and pick up those that have been laid off or otherwise left behind as the Kansas economy has modernized and evolved. In April, we kicked off a new program called “My (Re)Employment Plan" that blends enhanced workforce services with personal responsibility to get Kansans back to work faster. It connects unemployment recipients with workforce service professionals in their area, who will provide personalized job search assistance focusing on goals and accountability, skills assessments, resume and networking assistance, and labor market information highlighting in-demand jobs. We also launched Kansas Career Navigator (, an innovative tool to help Kansans find high wage, high demand jobs available by county.
Third, we are working hard to help people get off of government welfare programs and into the job market. I believe the safety net should help people bounce back rather than trapping them in a cycle of poverty. During my time as Lieutenant Governor, I helped change policy in Kansas to start a new approach to welfare that required work. My administration is laser-focused on empowering individuals to obtain good jobs so that they can live purpose-filled lives and experience the dignity that comes from a hard day's work.
These solutions will take time and energy from all of us, but I know that they will help our economy grow. Increasing the minimum wage, on the other hand, will only serve to distort our state's economy by artificially raising the cost of labor.

Gazette: How would you address education funding?

Colyer: When I became Governor, I called on the Legislature to keep schools open, invest in education over multiple years without raising taxes, and focus on improving student outcomes. We got it done. The solution resolves the equity issues so children in Galena, Hays, Salina, or Overland Park will have the same educational opportunities. It also includes measurable outcomes through the accreditation process, which are absolutely key to getting the focus back on Kansas kids.
As a doctor, I know it is important to see continuous improvement. We will maintain a sharp focus on sending dollars to the classroom without raising taxes. I look forward to building upon the work we did together this year to address student needs and allocate dollars to the classroom during the next legislative session.

Gazette: If you do not win the Republican nomination, what are your plans in terms of ensuring the Democratic Candidate does not win the election?

Colyer: Early on in this campaign, I told voters that, no matter who won the Republican nomination for Governor, I would be supporting that person's efforts after the primary is over. I will work with the Kansas Republican Party and the campaign of whoever wins the nomination to ensure that we have someone in the Governor's Office who shares our basic Republican ideals of limited government, free enterprise, and respect for constitutional rights.

Gazette: Do you believe marijuana should be legalized in some form? If so, what conditions would you include? To date, seven states have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana and in the state of Colorado, $135 million in taxes and fees flowed into the state budget in just one year. On the surface, these changes make financial sense and would decriminalize common teenager behavior. Do you support the legalization of marijuana for recreation? Or medical use?

Colyer: I signed legislation this session to allow those with ailments to benefit from a previously-banned substance. I signed a bill that legalizes cannabidiol, or CBD, which is a marijuana plant extract that contains no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (which is the ingredient in marijuana that makes people high). On a related note, I also signed a bill that allows for scientific research into industrial hemp to explore the benefits for the state of Kansas.
That being said, I don't believe the legalization of marijuana would serve the public good. Marijuana has long-term effects both on users and those exposed secondhand. As a practicing doctor for over 20 years, I know just how important it is to effectively manage patients' pain. However, I do not support the legalization of marijuana for medical use either. The Center for Disease Control has demonstrated that there is strong evidence that prolonged use of marijuana can result in addiction, breathing problems, short-term declines in memory, increased risk of poisoning among children, increased risk for low birth weights in babies when a mother uses while pregnant, and increased risk for psychosis or schizophrenia. I want to see continued research and development of better and safer medications to help relieve suffering, but I want to see those medications go through the rigorous testing process all pharmaceutical drugs go through. Right now, there are too many inconclusive studies on the benefits of medical marijuana use to make it the right decision for Kansas, especially given the prevalence of recreational use that this can cause.
Many businesses say they have problems finding workers who can pass a drug test. This is a big reason why so many Kansans aren’t benefitting from a growing economy. This scourge does not respect ethnicity, age, rich or poor, parent or child or county. Hundreds of our neighbors have died. Believe it or not, the average life expectancy in the United States decreased over the last two years, and many experts cite the opioid and meth epidemics as a primary cause. I’ve seen this first hand among my own patients.
To establish a comprehensive approach, I announced the creation of the Substance Use Disorders Task Force, and we have one of the top national experts leading our efforts. Dr. Greg Lakin–physician, lawyer, addiction specialist, former legislator—is heading this task force to work with stakeholders to implement short and long-term solutions.

Gazette: What place do guns have in your state’s schools? Do you support arming teachers and school staff? Should parents and visitors with concealed carry permits be allowed to bring their guns onto school grounds and into classrooms?

Colyer: I am a strong supporter of the second amendment. As Governor, I tend to be a proponent of local control. As for guns in classrooms, this is an issue best decided by local communities, who know the needs of their schools, students, and teachers better than anyone else. I think that if locals want to pursue the route of allowing teachers, staff, and parents who have undergone training to carry in the classroom, then that is fine. We are happy to discuss that approach. There are some communities where I am sure that might be a good option.
However, since I have been governor, I have traveled the state visiting schools in nearly every corner of the state. Those I spoke to were focused on different solutions, including some of those outlined in the school safety bill proposed during the recent legislative session. Some of these solutions include requiring schools and state agencies to establish guidelines for fortifying schools against armed threats, providing funding for safety measures like metal detectors and hardened glass, enhancing communications interoperability, and working more closely with law enforcement to keep our students secure while they're focused on learning.
All violence is tragic, and the school shootings and homicides that have taken place in other states recently are horrible. That is why I was proud to sign the budget to enact these solutions. We also invested in a mental health intervention pilot to ensure children in our schools are receiving the behavioral health care that they need.

Gazette: Why should the people of Kansas vote for you?

Colye r:I’m not your typical politician. I’m a surgeon, and I think, and problem solve, like a surgeon. When I see a problem, I approach it the same way I do in the operating room. I listen to the concerns and figure out what our issues are and then I step in and I solve it. That is the proper way to lead. Too often politics attracts the kind of people who prefer to cast blame first rather than focus on problem-solving. That doesn’t work in the operating room and it’s not the way a Colyer governorship would operate.
I think Kansans want a servant leader who is truly concerned with the issues that matter to them--education, economic development, public safety, getting people back to work, growing our state. Kansans want someone who is dedicated to solving problems in a way that sets us up for success in the long term and I am that candidate. I’m not the loudest or the most brash. I’m not the media darling you’ll see all over the national news circuit. I'm a workhorse, not a show pony. I don’t see this job as a stepping stone for aspirations in Washington. I'm focused on Kansas, the true heart of America. I want to listen, serve, and lead the people of Kansas and help make our state a place where our children see their futures.

Gazette: It is 2030 and you have served two terms as governor of Kansas. What are people saying about your legacy? What are your biggest concrete accomplishments?

Colyer: I hope they'd say that Dr. Jeff Colyer was dedicated to solving problems in a way that set the state up for success in the long term. He listened, served, and led the people of Kansas and helped make the state a place where our children found opportunities and great futures. My accomplishments will include the things I'm focused on right now: economic and job growth, improvement in education, and an increase in the quality of life for Kansans.
For economic and job growth, I will continue to strive to enact policies that increase employment in Kansas and keep our unemployment rate low. We will be very focused on attracting new businesses and retaining our current employers. We will emphasize Kansas' great education system, strong work ethic, skilled labor pool, great location and logistics strengths, low cost of living, and relatively low-tax and low-regulation environment. We will engage more people in the workforce, including people who have been underemployed or not participating in the labor market altogether. Kansas is a hub for very successful companies, and I will foster an environment of entrepreneurship so that the next big thing starts right here in Kansas.
For improvement in education, I will continue to work to make sure that we appropriately invest in students and that we end the school finance war that has been ongoing in Kansas for decades. I will also collaborate with the Board of Education and Legislature to make sure that additional investments in education provide a return through improved performance and positive outcomes. Together, we will increase our graduation and post-secondary effectiveness rates, redesign schools to focus on student learning, hire the best teachers and behavioral health professionals, and improve college and career readiness.
For quality of life, I will work to see that Kansans' wages are going up, poverty is going down, healthcare outcomes are improving, infrastructure investments are being made, housing and broadband are available in rural communities, taxes and regulations are low, and government is more open and responsive to the needs of the people. We will work with local communities and businesses to ensure that our citizens have the amenities they need to live, work, and play right here in Kansas.

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