Michael D. Gibbens
Kansas Senate, Third District
What are the top three issues facing the state of Kansas and how would you address them, if elected?
Quality education is a necessity in our times. Our state must continue to progress if our efforts to fund education in order to lower class sizes in our first three grades and we must emphasize programs like "reading recovery" to allow our students to build a sound educational foundation. This allows students to master more difficult subject matter as they progress through our educational system.
Budgetary and tax issues will always be in the top three issues facing government due to the financial constraints always present. I would currently oppose any efforts to raise tax rates but it appears to me that the budget must increase if we are to progress. Due to the unprecedented economic expansion it appears that these goals are not mutually exclusive. Economic development must be increased in order to fund an adequate budget. The state should not fail in its responsibilities to fully fund programs of the Public Employees Retirement System. Our state must continue to fund "safety net" programs that protect our children, elderly and handicapped. Our state has recently tried to overhaul our foster-care program for children and child support collection systems. Privatization of these programs has not worked as intended. I will work to restore adequate funding to these programs and to streamline the bureaucracy that slows delivery of important services such as these.
Should additional state funds be earmarked for the education of Kansas children in K-12?
Yes. We must continue to progressively raise the per pupil rate of funding for education. I believe that in the last six years this rate has risen from $42 per pupil to $50 per pupil. This has allowed remedial and prescriptive programs to be introduced into our school system. Such increases will also allow us to attract and keep our best educators in that profession. I have read that there may be a teacher shortage in the near future. If this occurs our current efforts to improve education will be jeopardized.
What unique qualifications would you bring to the job of state senator?
As a lawyer, my legal education and experience will enable me to draft laws without the help of legislative aides. I also through training and practice have the ability to analyze proposed legislation to make sure that it accomplishes its goal without unintended consequences. Only two lawyers served in our state Senate during the last term. This caused many poorly written bills to be introduced and some passed.
As a small businessman, I understand that it is getting more and more difficult to make a living as a self-employed in today's competitive environment.
I am married to a teacher and certainly understand the daily challenges being faced by our educators and their students. As a parent of four children (ages 17-23), I understand that children often times feel uncertain in this world that changes so fast.
What should be done at the state level to handle the effects of growth in northeast Kansas?
The state can help local governments face the challenges caused by population and economic growth but the major decisions concerning growth issues should be handled at the local level. Local governments in areas of growth always face funding problems for necessary infrastructure. Direct funding through local grants could help. However, it would probably be of a greater help if the Legislature were to refrain from passing laws requiring local governments to undertake certain programs without providing local government with the means for financing those programs.