Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kultala, Fitzgerald square off on public education, taxes


In what might have been considered the main event of the Wednesday candidates forum at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Kansas Sen. Kelly Kultala (D, District 6) and Republican challenger Steve Fitzgerald did not exactly make The Huffington Post like they did earlier this week.

But stark differences were noticeable between the candidates, especially in the areas of education and taxes.

On the issue of education, Kultala and Fitzgerald actually share one thing in common - both served on a board of education.

That's about the end of the similarities, though.

Kultala argued for more funding for the K-12 schools, while Fitzgerald said test scores and results have flat-lined over the past 15 years.

"We should be putting more money into education," Kultala said. "I believe that's where our future is. Over the last several years, we've had dramatic cuts in public education."

Kultala added that no institution has been under examination more than public education, arguing it's been "under the microscope" for many in the state.

"Public education is constantly being scrutinized," she said.

For Fitzgerald, the argument with K-12 education centered around results.

"We have to get better results," Fitzgerald said. "We have to restore the profession of teaching and allow them to do their jobs instead of (forcing them) to be bureaucratic."

The Republican challenger also disagreed with Kultala's "dramatic cuts" statement, stating that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has put more money into education, while most of the cuts were made by Democratic governors.

"The 'drastic cuts' have been hyperbolic," he said.

The candidates saved their sharpest disagreement for Brownback's tax-cut bill, which was approved last year by the Kansas Legislature.

The tax-cut plan approved lowers the top individual state income tax rate from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent. Income taxes on non-wage income for over 190,000 small businesses will also be eliminated beginning in 2013.

"The governor's plan will help Kansas turn around," Fitzgerald said. "In the last 20 years, there's been no rise in private sector growth. We have to change as a state."

The incumbent argued the tax-cuts will be "reckless."

"It's an absolute reckless tax plan," Kultala said. "We had a surplus. Now, we're going to have a debt. I don't support the tax plan."