Kansas Senate GOP hopefuls craft platform, woo angry voters

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, answers questions from reporters about a new campaign platform unveiled by GOP senators and Senate candidates, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Wagle says voters are angry about state government but she and fellow Republicans aren’t publicly breaking with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican leader Susan Wagle and other GOP candidates for Kansas Senate outlined a broad campaign platform Wednesday aimed at cooling voters’ anger with state government and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, although they aren’t publicly breaking with him.

The platform says the GOP candidates are committed to making the state’s tax system fairer, providing greater oversight of the state budget, working to create new jobs and ensuring greater transparency in government. Fourteen senators and 12 candidates signed on.The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging as an economic stimulus. Tax collections have most months since; the state potentially faces making budget cuts next year, and 14 conservative Republican legislators lost their seats in the August primary.

Wagle, the Senate president from Wichita, said during a news conference Wednesday that the GOP candidates drafted their platform after hearing from thousands of voters who were mostly angry. She said they want those voters to know the candidates are disappointed in state government, too.

But in the news conference and a follow-up briefing with reporters, Wagle repeatedly declined to publicly distance Republican candidates from Brownback.

“We aren’t campaigning on, ‘It’s not my fault. I don’t follow Brownback,'” she said. “We have a plan.”

The platform emphasizes broad principles rather than specific initiatives, though it does call for livestreaming legislative meetings.

Asked about the platform, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Republicans are driven by “a practical, common-sense approach to governing” that emphasizes fiscal responsibility and creating growth.

Still, many Republicans have criticized one of Brownback’s key fiscal policies: an exemption from personal income taxes for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. But asked whether the GOP candidates who signed onto the platform supported rolling back the policy, Wagle would say only, “Everything is on the table.”

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley , a Topeka Democrat, dismissed the platform as “pretty much just a bunch of platitudes.”

“There’s a clear difference between us and Gov. Brownback,” Hensley said. “And we want to look at his tax cuts.”


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