As a legislative body, we should spend more of our time attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand to bring a wide range of jobs to southeast Kansas. We need to focus on highly skilled trades across the wage spectrum to create the demand for housing we crave. We have the opportunity to recruit new business ventures with the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant coming online as commercial property and with the continued growth in good jobs at the state hospital. However, at a time when Topeka is slashing-and-burning, I will continue – with your support – to work hard to fight for these local assets. Our state employees have earned raises which they have not seen in recent years, but for now, we are glad to still have those jobs in our community.
With the economic downturn since 2008, the legislature has reneged on its commitment to fund K-12 education at a suitable level. We have cut school funds to make ends meet and this is a disservice to a generation of students. As a result, it is likely Kansas will again face a lawsuit to increase school funding. I strongly prefer these decisions be made at the legislative branch instead of the Supreme Court dictating state appropriations. Some of my colleagues want to delay and force the courts to act so they can claim the courts are overreaching. I disagree with this approach on both sides. The legislature should do its job so teachers can do theirs!
Our transportation infrastructure is a job-creator as well. We have a number of local contractors who bid on the projects funded by the T-Works transportation plan passed last year by the legislature. Even if the construction jobs are temporary, the workers’ needs for food, clothes, cars, gas, lodging, and entertainment add to the bottom line for our local businesses.
For the 7th district, a four-lane highway is the key to draw in major industry. When our chamber of commerce attempts to recruit businesses here, the first question is always – “How far is it to a four-lane highway?” I’m looking forward to the four-lane completion of Highway 69 from Kansas City and will work on the Transportation Committee to bring Highway 400 from Wichita east to the State Line up to four lanes. That kind of access will help us compete for companies needing to transport products throughout the region. Furthermore, Union Pacific sends four trains per day through our area and we expect to compete for some of the spillover business from the new intermodal facility underway in Gardner.