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."