CLARIFICATION: A previous headline stated Kobach would cut public sector jobs if elected and has been adjusted to clarify that would be done through attrition.
Kansas Secretary of State and Republican candidate for governor Kris Kobach told KMAN Wednesday afternoon in Manhattan that much has been learned from the Sunflower State’s well-documented budget woes that have made national headlines throughout much of this decade.
But for Kobach, the lesson learned has nothing to do with former Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts that economists have pointed to as the catalyst for those budget shortfalls. For him, it’s the overabundance of government jobs.
“One of the central points of my campaign has been, look, when I was secretary of state the past seven years, I took my budget from $7 million a year down to $4.6 million a year, and we cut it every single year,” Kobach told KMAN following a Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce Military Relations Committee luncheon held at the Four Points by Sheraton. “And the main way I was able to do that was shrinking through attrition. So, as baby boomers would retire, we would see if we could get by without replacing that person.
“And since 11,000 people in the baby boomer generation are retiring everyday in America, it was amazing how effective it worked, and I would like to do the same thing state-wide now. We have the third-highest of state and local government employees per capita in Kansas, believe it or not. That means there’s a lot of room for trimming there, and as people retire, see if the state agencies can get by without filling that position.”
Such a position would be an interesting sell to voters in the Little Apple, where the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the public sector as a key economic engine during its annual banquet on Feb. 24. While the Chamber did admit that evening Manhattan needs to find a better balance between public and private economic generation, Kobach didn’t believe suggesting public sector job cuts would be a turn off for Manhattan voters.
“If you ask any city leader do you want more public sector jobs or would you like to see the private sector to expand, they’ll all say, ‘No, we want the private sector to expand because the public sector is dependent on tax dollars,'” Kobach said.
When asked where that public sector expansion is in the Manhattan region, Kobach referenced “spin-off industries” from K-State research. He also pointed out Onyx bathroom fixtures in Belvue in Pottawatomie County.
“We need to make an environment where (the private sector) can thrive,” he said. “So cutting income taxes and cutting sales taxes is a big part of that and that’s one of the things I’m going to be pushing to do.”
But Kobach’s acknowledgment concerning the importance of university research to spur “spin-off industries” comes at a time university budgets are struggling across the state. In May, both K-State and KU announced massive cuts to their respective budgets for next year totaling $35 million.
But Kobach fell back on a previous claim — since debunked — about illegal immigration and tuition costs when asked about higher education funding.
“This is not a solution, but this is one thing that needs to be done, is we’re spending millions, right now in the state of Kansas subsidizing the tuition of illegal aliens,” he said. “Why don’t we take those millions of dollars — and we’re talking roughly $4 million a year right now — why don’t we take that $4 million and use it to cut the tuition rates of Kansans? If we’re going to take taxpayer dollars, let’s spend it on our own kids, let’s not subsidize the tuition of illegal aliens. So that’s one thing that I find absolutely outrageous that we’re doing that has to stop.”
Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer are considered the front-runners for the Republican ticket for governor. Primaries are Aug. 7.