with Kansas State Rep. Jim Ward, Kansas House Democratic Leader
Posted Dec 22, 2017
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"In an effort to boost its economy, a 2012 tax experiment resulted in the state of Kansas being faced with financial challenges. Revenues diminished and the economy grew more slowly than in neighboring states and the country as a whole. Representative Jim Ward, Kansas House Democratic leader shares how a collaborative effort resulted in setting the state on the right path to a better financial future.
Interview recorded November 30, 2017.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Facing economic peril, lawmakers in the Kansas state legislature set aside political differences to restore The Sunflower State's financial health. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Kansas House democratic leader, Representative Jim Ward, who is also on the front lines of the bipartisan effort. Representative Ward is also a 2017 Governing magazine Public Official of the Year honoree. Welcome to the program, sir, and congratulations.
Ward: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
Traynham: So, let's talk about the elephant in the room. And that is, is that the state that you represent was going through, or is going through, some financial challenges. But it appears, from based on what I've read, is that you and your Republican colleagues have come together to try to solve the problem. Walk us through.
Ward: Okay. Kansas tried a fairly radical tax experiment that took 330,000 people off the income tax rolls in the state, and lowered tax rates to a very rock-bottom rate. It had devastating effects. It was fiscally irresponsible, it was fundamentally unfair, and it devastated essential services. We had three credit downgradings, we were $1 billion in the hole every year, which isn't a lot for Washington, but for a budget of $6 billion, that's a huge amount of money. So, over the last few years, Kansans, through their votes, have indicated they wanted a change. This year, what we were able to do through -- all Democrats don't think alike, all Republicans, whether they be moderates or conservatives, don't think alike. So, there was a process that we were able to repeal and reform that.
Traynham: Yeah, let's talk about the process. That was, I assume, a bipartisan effort to come together to figure this out for the greater good, if you will. Can you walk us through that process Can you walk us through how -- I'm making this part up -- Republicans and Democrats rolled up their sleeves and said, ""Look, we have to figure this out and put partisan interests aside for the good of the state""
Ward: It started with the first part of that, which is, most of the people who came to Topeka in January of this year knew we had to make some changes. The state was in a fiscal crisis. We didn't put partisanship aside totally. There was some rough parts. 'Cause, like I said, everybody doesn't agree. We had to work through those disagreements, and we were able to do that in a way that made people feel comfortable they weren't betraying political principles or values, but still got a job done. And I think what makes this -- This proves that democracy can work, that the voters picked people, sent them to do a job, and those people, while disagreeing, did the job."
The Asian American Pacific Islander community makes up six percent of the U.S. population, but is growing more than four times as rapidly as the total U.S. population. Asians are the largest group of immigrants to enter the U.S. as immigrants. A conversation with Janelle Wong, Senior Researcher at AAPI Data about the fastest-growing but one of the understudied racial groups in the United States.
The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be hosted this summer in Seattle, with more than 4,000 athletes and coaches representing 50 states and the District of Columbia. Jason Schriml of the Special Olympics USA Games discussed the impact the games and this organization that highlights athletes with intellectual disabilities through highly competitive sports, uplifting experiences, and demonstrating inclusion for all.
Preparations are underway for the 2020 United States Census. A fair and accurate count of all communities is of major importance, as data gathered is used to determine federal funding, congressional representation and more. For some populations, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the process can be of concern due to immigration status, language barriers and fear of providing personal information. John Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC joins Robert Traynham to discuss the importance of an accurate count, especially for the AAPI population in America.
Filipino Americans make up the third largest subgroup of Asian Americans today, with millennials comprising nearly a quarter of this population. And while there about 4 million Filipino and Filipino Americans living in the U.S today, this population is underrepresented in political and leadership roles. Brendan Flores, National Chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations joins Robert Traynam to discuss the welfare and well-being of Filipino Americans and efforts to strengthen the personal and professional development of young Filipino Americans.
According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Asian population increased 72 percent between 2000 and 2015, resulting in the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group. And as this population continues to grow, there remains a lack of involvement in politics and corporate leadership positions. Kendall Kosai, Deputy Director at OCA National discussed programs designed to help high school students explore their identity, and encourage them to become future community leaders.
Korean Americans, like many other Asian Americans, are recent immigrants to the United States, emigrating in large numbers after 1965. As first and second generation Americans, many still have close ties with their homeland, where family and friends still reside. A discussion with Sam Yoon, Executive Director of the Council of Korean Americans on the Korean American community, including their ties to both North and South Korea.
Intellectual property theft costs Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Kim Tignor of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law discusses IP rights and protections, along with efforts to educate and support minority communities to prevent theft of creative works and ideas.
There is a current trend toward incivility dominating public discourse in the United States. A grassroots campaign is working to reverse that trend, encouraging civility to improve collaboration, compromise and productivity in legislative bodies. Jody Thomas, Executive Director of the National Foundation for Women Legislators discusses efforts by NFWL and partnering organizations to encourage civil discourse for elected officials.
The population of young, eligible voters outnumbers the population of senior voters, according to US News and World Report. And while young people have the power to shape election, first-time voters have a notoriously low turnout on Election Day. The discussion continues in part 2 of Civic Engagement and the First-time Voter.
A discussion with David Thornburgh, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy.
Interview recorded June 14, 2017.
"Kansas state legislators put their ideologies to the side and worked together to stabilize the Kansas Budget. Kansas State Senator Jim Denning, Majority Leader of the Kansas State Senate discusses the successful bipartisan effort.
Interview recorded November 30, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: With the state economy in the red, Kansas lawmakers from opposing parties united to reverse the decline. An immediate benefit -- schools across the state received $300 million in new funding. Hello, everyone, and welcome to ""Comcast Newsmakers."" I'm Robert Traynham, and joining me is Senator Jim Denning. He's the majority leader of the Kansas State Senate, and one of 2017 Governing magazine Public Officials of the Year. Senator Denning, welcome to the program.
Denning: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Traynham: So it's widely known that your home state went through a steep decline in revenue. I think a lot of folks around the country were saying ""How are they gonna get out of this "" And you clearly, along with your Democratic colleagues and the Governor, figured out a solution. Tell us about it.
Denning: Sure, we had cut taxes significantly starting in calendar year '13, and we had two provisions in our tax policy. One was a pass-through where small businesses and sole proprietorships would not pay any tax at all on their non-wage income, and that ended up being a loophole that we ended up closing. And the other thing that we had in the policy was that it was marching to zero, that is to say marching down to zero tax, and it was just a statutory march. It wasn't based on any economic activity. And by the second year of the tax cut, we had realized that we had gone too deep, that we needed to reverse a bit of that tax cut to stabilize the budget. We were starting to get to the point where we couldn't fund our core services like schools, mental health, you know, the...
Traynham: The basic necessities, if you will
Denning: Yeah, just the basic -- correct.
Traynham: Senator, let's talk for a few moments about the rainy day fund and that concept. I'm from Pennsylvania, and I know when I was in college and also in high school, there was the state legislature, and I was saying, "Listen, happy days are here again, and this is great from a revenue standpoint, but let's plan as though that the happy days will end at some point, and so let's have a savings account, if you will." And as I understand it, your doing something very similar.
Denning: Yes, we're looking at a rainy day fund next year, and you say, you know, the economy, it ebbs and flows. Right now it's flowing. We're having 3% GDP growth, and we're certainly seeing that at the state level, but we know that a recession is inevitable. We just came through the 2002 recession, and then the deep recession of 2008 and 2009, so we know that the economy will once again contract, and we would like to have a rainy day fund built up so that we'd have a little bit of a cushion so we can continue to fund those core services without taking on additional debt or just simply cutting.