- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Salina Journal, Oct. 27

Orman is the pick:

In the twilight of his long political career, Sen. Pat Roberts seems hell-bent on destroying the image he spent decades building.

Even if Roberts wins another six years in the Senate, Kansans will never look at him the same way.

Before, most Kansans, if they thought of Roberts at all, probably remembered his years on the Senate Ag Committee, and as someone who exhibited common sense and a clever sense of humor.

But not now. Not after seeing the way he’s acted since he’s faced Independent Greg Orman in this election. Rather than talking about the issues, Roberts has tried to smear Orman as the new, best buddy of President Obama, Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton.

We expected better from Roberts, who’s been in Washington since the 1960s. With all that experience, we had hoped this could be a campaign about what matters in Kansans lives.

Instead, Roberts has shown himself to be, at heart, just another political hack saying whatever’s necessary to hang onto his job.

And now comes news that Roberts, whose campaign calls him a “tireless warrior for Kansas agriculture,” has missed about two-thirds of the Senate Ag Committee meetings in the past 15 years.

If Kansans send Orman to Washington, the hope is that with control of the Senate in the balance that he’ll be able to barter with both sides to the benefit of Kansas. In any event, we’d have someone who is thoughtful, rational and not beholden to the powers that be.

Even if Orman’s not elected, he has conducted himself as we hope all politicians would - with class, honesty, and striving always to be about the issues.

At some point in a career, a politician has to ask if it’s worth staying in power if it means having to act the way Roberts has. Sadly, Roberts has answered that question in embarrassing fashion, and he and Kansas are the poorer for his answer.

___

The Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct. 25

Keep Roberts in the Senate:

Kansas voters who have been following the campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat that is on the Nov. 4 ballot should realize by now they have a clear choice.

When they go to the polls, they will find printed on one line of the ballot the name of incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who has served the state well through many years of public service. He knows Kansas and Kansans and shares the conservative values held by the people who will soon be casting their votes on Election Day.

On another line on the ballot will be printed the name of Greg Orman, an independent who does not have the relationship with Kansas and its people that Roberts has built and enjoyed throughout his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Exactly what values Orman brings to the race are unknown. He has participated in debates but otherwise hasn’t been very visible on the campaign trail. Orman does show up unannounced at community events and spends time talking to folks, but those who haven’t met him don’t really have a good idea of what he would bring to the table as a senator.

Orman’s primary talking point has been that as an independent he would caucus with the party in control of the Senate but would be willing to work in a bipartisan manner to end the gridlock in Washington, D.C.

Frankly, it will take more than one vote to break that gridlock. And while there is much to be said for bipartisanship in some areas, a bipartisan resolution that does not serve the interest of Kansas, or the entire country, isn’t really a resolution.

Throughout the years, Roberts has made many major contributions to Kansas, its people and its economy. His efforts, along with those of his colleagues, were instrumental in bringing the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to Manhattan, where it will be a major economic engine for the state going forward. When the federal government went looking for military forts and bases to close several years ago, Roberts worked diligently to ensure the state’s facilities remained in a position to serve our state and our country.

There has been talk of another round of closures. Does Orman have the experience, knowledge and seniority to guide Kansas through that process, or any of a multitude of issues on the horizon?

Roberts has served well, and Kansans should keep him on the job.

___

The Hutchinson News, Oct. 24

Money bags:

Kansans knew that Secretary of State Kris Kobach was pulling down some extra income, aside from his secretary salary, but no one had put a figure on it. Until now.

Kobach’s challenger, Democrat and former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, has pressed him on the issue during the campaign, and Kobach finally fessed up. The elected official’s outside income is between $30,000 and $100,000 yearly. Anyone with pen and paper - or a calculator - would put that number closer to $100,000 rather than $30,000 based on the amount of legal work Kobach contracts out of state. Schodorf is one of those who think Kobach is skimping on the numbers.

He is a part-time secretary of state who receives a salary of $86,000. That, in addition to his outside income, makes Kobach a handsomely paid elected official who uses his office to outsource his skills. He was elected - and paid - to serve full time the people of Kansas, not those in Arizona and Alabama, two of the states with which Kobach has contracted.

Kobach offers a flimsy excuse for taking on outside work.

“My wife stays home, and we want to keep it that way,” Kobach said.

Then Kobach ought to quit his elected office and hire himself out legitimately instead of using his office to pad his bank account and keep his wife happy.

No matter how many times it’s said or the way it’s said, Kobach is wrong. Kansans deserve a secretary of state who is focused on the job full time.

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The Manhattan Mercury, Oct. 26

Someday, let’s drop grocery sales tax:

A couple of state senators from Wichita have come up with a good - bipartisan! - idea that could make life a little more affordable for all Kansans, especially those who need the help most. Unfortunately, the state has dug itself into such a hole that it can’t afford it.

State Sens. Michael O’Donnell, a Republican, and Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Democrat, are putting together a proposal to phase out the state sales tax on groceries over several years. It would benefit every Kansan for the simple reason that, as Sen. O’Donnell says, “every Kansan eats.”

Importantly, the poor would be the chief beneficiaries. That’s because food costs take up a greater percentage of their income than is the case for more affluent Kansans.

Phasing out the sales tax on food would be one of the most enlightened tax cuts the Legislature could enact. In fact, Kansas is one of just 14 states that still tax food bought for home consumption, says the Center on Budget and Policies.

Trouble is, the Legislature in recent sessions has slashed taxes - in ways that generally benefit the affluent - to the extent that if lawmakers cut anything in the near future, it will be programs and services that the state no longer has the money for. The revenue stream has dried up to the point that Kansas already is scrambling to pay its bills, and the situation will get worse before it gets better - which seems unlikely without policy changes. The state is projected to have a revenue shortfall of some $260 million by June 30, 2016.

In other words, the state needs whatever revenue it gets from the sales tax on groceries too much to even consider reducing it. According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, the sales tax on groceries generates about $392 million a year; about $325 million of that goes into the state general fund. That revenue constitutes about 15 percent of the state’s total sales tax revenue.

Although the state does not exempt groceries from the sale tax, it does exempt food-stamp and WIC program purchases, prescription drugs and insulin, along with orthopedic and prosthetic devices and equipment and some other items.

Several years ago, Kansas policy included a refund on food sales taxes. In 2013, that was replaced by a food sales tax credit for the poor, elderly and disabled. The state doesn’t have enough data yet to determine how many people claimed the credit.

Unfortunately, years could pass before the state’s financial situation allows lawmakers to even consider reducing the sales tax on groceries. When that time comes, we hope lawmakers are enlightened enough to act.

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