What the gubernatorial candidates say about rural development
What have you done in the past and what will you do in the future to increase development in rural areas of Kansas and reduce the out-migration from large areas of the state?
Kathleen Sebelius: Rural Kansas is one of the treasures of our state that we must continue working to protect, preserve and grow.
In 2004, I signed the Kansas Economic Growth Act, which included the rural business development program. This program provides $7 million in tax credits over a three-year period. This past year, I increased the rural business development tax credit from 50 percent to 75 percent. Also, I have recently called for and signed legislation that cuts the taxes on new equipment and machinery - which is a great opportunity for every business, and especially farmers.
Ethanol use is a very important part of moving Kansas' economy forward. I chair the 32-state National Ethanol Coalition created by the National Governors Association.
At home in Kansas, I signed legislation this year that removes ethanol labels on gas at the pump, and ethanol use has increased 600 percent in the last year in this state. I have also signed two laws that, combined, reduced the tax on ethanol by 7 cents in 2007 and 13 cents by 2020.
Creating the foundation for strong development in rural Kansas is only half the battle. We must work to promote these great opportunities throughout the state, the country, and the world. In 2004, I signed the Agritourism Promotion Act, as well as traveling to Japan to lobby for reopening their markets to beef. Our agritourism industry is on the rise, and Japan is nearing a renewed relationship with Kansas beef producers.
Providing accessible health care is a challenge for rural Kansas, and it is vital if we are to maintain a rural way of life. Since becoming governor, I have seized every opportunity to make health care more affordable and accessible. I proposed and signed a law that doubles tax credits for small businesses so they could afford to provide health insurance for their employees. I've also approved Health Savings Accounts that let people pay less for health treatment by using pre-tax dollars while saving for retirement.
Moving forward, I will continue not only strengthening our bedrock rural industries such as agriculture and beef, but also expand our newest industries in renewable energies such as wind and bio-fuels.
With Japan having reopened its markets to American beef, Kansas must regain our standing as a primary exporter of this product. Restoring this relationship will bolster the rural Kansas economy and reaffirm our relationship with a global trading partner.
I have proven my commitment to these efforts for the past four years, and I hope to be given the chance to continue for four more.
Jim Barnett: In order to reverse the downward population trend in rural Kansas, we must provide greater economic opportunity, excellent education and quality health care.
In the Kansas Senate, I helped write key components of the Kansas Bioscience initiative, which will help generate new business and new jobs in all parts of Kansas. I worked to secure funding for the Future Teacher Academy to expose kids from Kansas to the teaching profession and encourage them to consider teaching as a career.
I have been very active in supporting Critical Access Hospitals for our rural communities, as well as the Kansas Health Policy Authority.
Kansas spends approximately $150,000 for every child starting in kindergarten and completing a degree at one of the regents institutions. Too many of our graduates must relocate to a more urban area, or leave Kansas altogether, in order to find suitable employment. Job growth in Kansas has been at 1.9 percent during the Sebelius administration, compared with 3.1 percent in Missouri, 3.9 percent in Oklahoma and Nebraska, and 4.8 percent in Colorado.
I have proposed a 10 percent investment tax credit for all businesses and farms, large or small. This would allow Kansas business to write off 10 percent of capital investments, encouraging more investment and greater job growth. This would be particularly beneficial to the key players in the future of rural Kansas, small businesses and those developing new technologies.
Perhaps more than urban school districts, the schools in our smaller communities provide a center and an identity. We must continue to seek new efficiencies and greater opportunities for learning through technology in our rural school districts.
As governor, I will continue to promote our network of rural medical facilities. It is much easier to grow our own health care professionals here in Kansas than trying to find them elsewhere.
That's why I will fight to ensure that the KU Medical School retains as its primary mission the education of our future generation of doctors, nurses and other health care providers.