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Our Voice in Topeka

Representative, District 70

The results are in — at least for now. I’m likely to receive a few more surveys, but here are the overall results for now. Thank you to all who responded — 1,342 so far. As I’ve said, your comments are most helpful and the tallied numbers are next.

While this isn’t a voting process but a survey, the survey answers are quite helpful. Through this survey, I’ve learned most of you know we aren’t likely to agree on every issue, but this survey helps me shape policy in Kansas, and I’ve gained many good ideas.

I also learned some issues matter to you more than others do. I now know that none of us like to be taxed, and yet I found out many in this district advocate for increasing their own taxes, when it’s for something they feel strongly about. I also learned many want no tax increase and believe we can cut enough to fill the $300 million hole.

I received comments regarding each question on the survey, more on some than others. Because of space constraints, if I shared all comments, I would risk being shot by the newspaper editors. I’m pushing it this week, as it is, but I’ll share some comments. Some folks left questions blank for various reasons because they don’t know the law, can see both sides, cannot decide, don’t care — so I am showing percentages of those who did respond to a question, not always the entire number responding to the entire survey.

Here we go:

  • Repeal the death penalty: 45 percent yes, 55 percent no.
  • Ban smoking in public places: 65.4 percent yes, 34.6 percent no.
  • Let the business owner help decide whether to allow smoking: 62.6 percent yes, 37.4 percent no. (All who opposed the ban want businesses to decide; and quite a few who advocate the ban is also OK with the businesses’ input. The bill we voted on didn’t present that option. We are told a “trailer bill” is needed on the subject, and that businesses could weigh in through that bill.)
  • Sell beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores: 39.5 percent yes, 60.5 percent no. (More on this one later.)
  • Show a voter ID to vote: 80.5 percent yes, 19.5 percent no. (Quite clear on this one)
  • Stop all late term abortions: 57 percent yes, 43 percent no. (Quite a few underlined the word “all” and then marked “no.”)
  • Better enforcement of abortion laws: 78 percent yes, 22 percent no.
  • Tighter laws on the subject of abortion: 56 percent yes, 44 percent no. (Many didn’t answer the “enforcement” and “tighter laws” questions, commenting they were uninformed and thought they shouldn’t comment without learning more first.)
  • Use a tax increase plus spending cuts to balance the budget: 44 percent yes, 57 percent no.
  • Increase tax for kindergarten through 12th grade education: 48 percent yes, 52 percent no. (However, a few who said “no” to this question checked the area for “other interests” and said funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education was important.)
  • Increase tax for disabled and Medicaid: 56 percent yes, 44 percent no.
  • If you marked yes, which tax would you raise? Sales tax 680, property tax 80, income tax 232, cigarette tax 822, and beer and alcohol 830.

This was difficult to tally since folks could mark more than one, and most, by far, marked sales, cigarettes, and beer-alcohol. Many commented that sales tax is the fairest because we all pay it; some thought it is the least fair because it hits those with the least, too. Some said an increase in income tax would be fairer because they have the money to pay it. There was only one area to mark, since I simply wanted a feel on your attitudes, and a few tried to rectify by double marking — my fault.

Please compare the numbers to each other, not percentages. Also, only those who marked “yes” to the answers on taxing were to check these boxes, but many who consistently said “no” also responded to these, showing their preference for one tax or another, although they prefer no tax increase.

The most telling response is the clear opposition to property tax. With the limits now in place on who pays it and what they pay, that tax is no longer a broad-based tax, and it falls mostly on homeowners and businesses. Except for sales tax, it appears from comments we’re willing to tax discretionary spending. Sales tax is the one place folks seem to say “tax me ... raise my taxes.”

  • Cut all agencies equally to balance budget, without favoring any area: 50 percent yes, 50 percent no.
  • Raise taxes to support priority areas marked on the survey: 52 percent yes, 48 percent no. (Under “other” some wrote “education” or “K-12” and marked “yes.”)

Several people are angry I’ve not killed the proposed health care bill or are upset about the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), which Congress passed in fall 2008. Our state legislature has no control over those debates.

The most common statements:

1) Government needs to live within its means. (I agree.) Even many who stated a willingness to have their taxes raised thought we needed to keep paring down the size of our government.

2) We should keep our schools funded.

3) Cut the excess. I agree but the problem is excess to you may not be excess to your neighbor, depending on your area of interest (the various areas listed on the survey). So far, the “BRAC” bill is stuck in the Senate.

4) Legislative pay is too high, and some believe I’m in Congress making big bucks. I’m not. I’m in the state legislature. Early on, I committed to cut my own pay if we don’t cut it through legislation. More on this later.

You may e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861, or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66612; or call me at (620) 382-2133 or (785) 296-7699.

Last modified March 17, 2010

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