In what can be described only as voter apathy, just a handful of residents attended Saturday morning’s candidate forum.
Candidates or their entourage far outnumbered those they came to sway. The four-hour forum at the Iola High School lecture hall was organized by Darrell Monfort and Debbie Bearden of the Allen County Farm Bureau.
Of local interest, were Raymond “Bud” Sifers and incumbent Rep. Bill Otto, Republicans vying for the 9th District nomination.
“I’m a 10th Amendment kind of guy,” said Sifers, referring to states’ rights. “We need to position ourselves to safeguard ourselves from federal mandates.”
He said he was against the recently passed 1 cent sales tax increase.
“It makes it very difficult for low-income families,” amounting to as much as $200-$300 a year in extra spending, he said.
He said he didn’t have an answer as to how to fund state obligations other than, “We need to make more money by working harder or to do without. It’s not business as usual. We need to tighten our belts.”
Raising taxes is not an answer, he said.
As for putting the money toward education, he said it could be justified if the results were evident. As is, quality outcomes of education remain at “a flat line, while the spending is at a 45-degree angle.”
“If they were equal, then people would be willing to spend money for it,” he said.
Sifers said he is pro-life and pro-gun and against granting rights to illegal immigrants. “Illegal is illegal,” he said.
BILL OTTO said he supported the 1 cent sales tax increase, though unhappily.
He would rather have cut pay to state employees — including legislators — by 10 percent, he said, which he proposed.
He also would like to have a leveling of property taxes to fund the state so county mill levies are more in line.
He decried the ballooning of state government in all facets. “We need to elimate every blue ribbon commission,” he said, citing those formed to aid blacks and Hispanics.
He was also critical of KPERS, the retirement programfor government employees, and how it allows “double-dipping.” This format allows a retired teacher or administrator to draw retirement benefits and then go back to work in another school job.
The problem also is that the Legislature doesn’t fully fund the KPERS system some years.
Otto said the 1 cent increase in sales tax would make it unnecessary to cut Medicaid by 10 percent. Cutting the Medicaid budget eventually would have resulted in closing “all the rest homes,” in Kansas. The extra funding provided by the sales tax increase also helps keep schools and prisons open, he said.
THREE OF NINE candidates for U.S. Senate nominations, including Republicans Jerry Moran and Tom Little, were here for the forum. Patrick Wiesner, Lawrence, was the only of five Democrat candidates who showed up.
Moran, who campaigned in this area Thursday through today, said among his more difficult chores was explaining to those who seldom venture beyond the Beltway in Washington, D.C. of how Kansans believe living meaningful lives.
“Almost no one in Washington appreciates or understands rural America,” he said.
Agriculture in particular is a foreign concept to many there, who must think food miraculously appears in grocery stores. He recalled hosting a New Jersey Senator in Kansas, who was amazed at what was done on a typical farm.
The recession occurred, Moran said, because “we lived beyond our means,” and that he was quick on the trigger to vote against tax increases and the stimulus and bailout packages.
“It is immoral to put the financial burden of the deficits on our children and grandchildren,” he said. “The long-term view in Washington is three months from now, how to be re-elected.”
Moran, a Hays resident who grew up on a farm, said his efforts to win the GOP senatorial nomination and then be elected Nov. 2 was “to put myself in position to make more of a difference. In the House I am one of 425. In the Senate I would be one of 100.”
He was elected to his first of eight two-year terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. Senate terms are for six years.
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