General election candidate questionnaire: Kelly Kultala, Senate Dist. 5
The following are Kully Kultala's answers to The Chieftain's candidate questionnaire:
Biographical information for Kelly Kultala
Years lived in district: 22 years
Family: Married to my husband Daniel for 34 years and we have three grown daughters, all married, and three grandchildren.
Professional experience: Communications and Development Coordinator for Piper USD 203
Political and civic experience: 5th District State Senator, 2008-current. Piper School Board, 1999-2001 and 2006-2007. Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS Board of Commissioners for District 5, 2001-2005.
Why did you decide to run for this seat?
I have always been interested in public service and I went back to college after the birth of our last daughter to get my degree in political science. During college I completed an internship in the Kansas State Senate and fell in love with the process and the state capitol. It became a dream of mine to serve. When the opportunity came up to run for the state senate in 2008 I couldn’t pass it up. I am living my dream...not many people get to say that.
What will be your primary goal or goals if elected?
My primary goals will be to support programs that attract new companies and good-paying jobs, to create a fair and balanced tax system, and to support the funding of our public schools.
Do you think schools are adequately funded? If not, what would be a proper level of funding and how would the state get that revenue?
Drastic cuts to public education have forced our school districts to layoff beloved teachers, increase class sizes and increase school fees. Now that the economy is starting to rebound and as positive cash balances occur in the state budget I would like to see that funding is restored to the levels spelled out in the Montoy vs. Kansas court case. By fully-funding our schools, we can ensure that our children receive the best education possible.
Are there areas in the state budget that could be reduced? Please provide specifics.
The Kansas Legislature approved an irresponsible tax plan during the 2012 legislative session, which will completely eliminate our state surplus and leave our state in debt. As a result, nearly half of our state budget may be cut. That means eliminating jobs, programs and services that have supported our businesses, children and most vulnerable Kansans, e.g. the Kansas Main Street Program.
Instead of focusing on further reductions, the Kansas Legislature should focus on ways to support these vital programs in future years.
There has been much concern that the tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback -- especially the portion that eliminates taxes on non-wage income for numerous business owners -- will deprive the state of the revenue needed to properly fund schools, social services and public safety. Will you seek or support efforts to pare back those tax breaks for businesses?
The Governor’s tax plan is reckless and irresponsible. According to the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department (KLRD), the 2012 tax plan will cost the State of Kansas almost four billion dollars in the next five years, leaving our state $2.5 billion in the hole by FY2018.
Despite claims that cutting taxes for large corporations and out-of-state special interests will create jobs and grow the economy, bond credit rating group Moody’s predicts no improvement in economic growth as a result of Kansas tax cuts. All Governor Brownback’s tax plan accomplishes is slashing the taxes of millionaires while pushing more taxes onto the backs of employees and homeowners.
Under this plan, Kansans making less than $20,000 per year will pay $148 more in income taxes and people making over $400,000 will pay over $21,000 less. And although Kansans already pay more in property taxes than 40 other states, because Governor Brownback’s plan eliminates income taxes for nearly all non-wage earners, property taxes will have to rise even further to make up the difference. It’s what has happened in other no-income tax states and it will happen in Kansas.
In the end, I believe that tax parity is the answer to good tax policy.
The 6.3 percent state sales tax is scheduled to fall back to 5.7 percent on July 1, 2013. But some have talked about making the temporary sales tax increase permanent as a way to maintain funding. Is that something you would support?
No. I made a commitment to my constituents that the increase in sales tax was only intended to last for three years, to get us through a very bad time in our economy, and I will adhere to that commitment.
Do you support or oppose Gov. Brownback's proposal to privatize Medicaid? If you oppose, what do you intend to do about it?
I do not support the Governor’s proposal to privatize Medicaid. This is too big of a project to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2013. The state is still waiting for waivers to be approved by the Department of Health & Human Services regarding parts of the Medicaid reform and all of the managed care organizations that were chosen to be providers have their home offices out of state, so over $250 million of Kansas money will be going out of state to pay for the administrative costs of the managed care organizations. Kentucky has implemented this type of program and has had many problems with subcontractors getting paid on time by the managed care organizations causing a feud between operators and healthcare providers, bringing a lot of concern to the people about the quality of care.
Changes to Medicaid should move slowly, with significant legislative oversight and input from advocate organizations.
Should the state start to implement the Affordable Care Act, specifically the establishment of a state health exchange and expansion of Medicaid?
Our family has first-hand experience with the struggles of health insurance and access to quality health care. My husband has major health issues. He was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic when he was 2 ½ years old, had a kidney & pancreas transplant in 2002, had a leak from the surgery and went into septic shock, has had quadruple bypass and had cancer in his skull and brain lining that required surgery, the replacement of part of his skull and radiation among many other medical procedures. There was a time when I went back to school and Dan changed jobs that we did not have health insurance and couldn’t get it for a period of time due to his pre-existing conditions. When our three little girls needed immunizations, during this time, we had to take them to the doctor and pay the full rate for the shots, not the negotiated insurance rate, and we didn’t have the $300 to pay for it, so we had to put it on a credit card.
In 1995 Dan had to have an emergency appendectomy with complications, the doctor’s said we almost lost him then. Our health insurance company at the time refused to pay for cost of the surgery due to a “pre-existing” condition…the fact he was a Type 1 diabetic. After several months of wrestling with the insurance company they agreed to pay the claim, however, we considered filing bankruptcy because there wasn’t any way we would have been able to pay the $25,000+ bill.
While it’s not perfect, there are good parts to the Affordable Care Act, such as allowing Kansans under age 26 to stay on their parents plan and preventing pre-existing conditions from being used to deny coverage.
I would have preferred having the state keep the $31.5 million grant that the federal government gave us to create our own exchange, however since the Governor sent that money back to Washington D.C., we will now have to use whatever exchange the federal government designs. And I also support expansion of Medicaid. This would allow thousands of Kansans to have access to health care that currently don’t qualify and the federal government will pay 100% for the first few years and 90% thereafter.
Why should voters select you instead of your opponent?
Over the last four years I have worked tirelessly for my constituents. I worked in the senate as part of a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats working together on issues important to Kansans. Much of the dysfunction in Washington D.C. is spilling over into Kansas and the process has become about who wins, not about creating good public policy. I would not have been elected in 2008 without the help and support of moderate Republicans and Democrats. I believe we are better when we work together.