Candidates for the Kansas Senate and 75th District in the House voiced their opinions on a variety of issues during the Leadership Butler Candidate Forum Tuesday.

Peter DeVries and Ty Masterson are running for the Senate seat.


Candidates for the Kansas Senate and 75th District in the House voiced their opinions on a variety of issues during the Leadership Butler Candidate Forum Tuesday.

Peter DeVries and Ty Masterson are running for the Senate seat.

DeVries was the first to give his opening statement.

He said the region has the resources to help the area and the nation. He also believes they have a moral obligation to educate youth, preparing them to compete globally.

“Bluntly put our nation faces a time of great challenges,” he said. “I believe the government needs to be more responsible for spending. The most accurate indicator of future behavior is past behavior.”

He said Masterson has made a bunch of untrue claims.

He also pointed out Masterson is being sued for 10s of thousands of dollars which he owes in loan defaults and unpaid bills. He said he used his position in the legislature to avoid going to court. He said he also refused to appear before a judge.

“I encourage you to seek the truth,” Masterson replied in his opening statement, adding that was all he would say about his business but was open to talk about it at another time.

“I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving these last three years in the legislature,” he said. “I have pushed for initiatives for teacher scholarships and higher pay for teachers. I look forward to continuing that in the Kansas Senate.”

The first question for the two was how they would protect El Dorado’s state employees, especially at the prison, from budget cuts that could affect their jobs and to ensure the prison has sufficient funding.

Masterson assured the crowd that El Dorado was at the bottom of the list for spending cuts.
“I will definitely do what I can to keep our local correctionals open,” he said.

DeVries pointed out that they couldn’t let facilities fall apart.
“We have to invest in necessary infrastructure and safety,” he said.

He said that included safety of not only the prisoners, but also the guards.

The next question was if they would support dedicated funding sources for natural and wetland areas.

“I think acquisition is a poor choice at this time,” DeVries said, “but we have to maintain it. We have to take care of our lakes and rivers.”

Masterson said there is dedicated funding for wildlife and parks through park fees and hunting and fishing license fees, as well as federal funds.

“There have been attempts to dedicate a portion of gambling funds,” he said, adding that he was against the dedicated funding because it removed that spending farther out of the light.  He does not support direct transfer.

The next question asked if there were too many units of local government and how they would change that if so.
Masterson felt there were too many.

“Kansas has been routinely ranked in recent years in the top government job growth,” he said, pointing out that almost four out of 10 people in Kansas work for a government entity.

He did feel local voters needed to approve any consolidation.
DeVries disagreed on the issue.

“Absolutely not,” he said.
He felt it was important people have a voice in government, which he felt was more at the local level. He also thought that extended to school consolidation as well.

“Any effort to take that away from local people is a mistake,” DeVries said.

Next, they were asked what they would do to bring more industry and jobs to Kansas.

DeVries said he would introduce legislation on net metering, which rewards people for putting energy on the grid and wanted to bring production initiatives to Kansas.

“The fact opportunities in Butler County have been ignored is a huge mistake.”

Masterson said he didn’t think the answer to economic development was government involvement.

“We need a competitive environment,” he said.

He said he was trying to get level property tax between Sedgwick and Butler counties.
“That will bring new business into Butler County,” he said.

The next question was when looking at surrounding states and the dollars spent on tourism, how Kansas compares.

Masterson said they do spend less than surrounding states.

“The thing about Kansas is our wonderful way of living,” he said.

He didn’t support extra money for tourism, but thought they could use some extra money from the lottery.

DeVries had a different approach.

“I think if we would advertise Kansas to Kansans we would see a benefit,” he said. “There are great things to do here. Often times, even people who live here are unaware.”
Next, the candidates were asked their stand on funding education.

“First I would say something about all funding programs,” DeVries said. “They need to be as efficient as possible.”

He also felt a budget was a moral document and they have a moral obligation to educate youth.
He said he hears people say schools are failing, but he is not sure that is the case.

“My experience with schools has been good,” DeVries said. “Schools I believe are the basis of our society.”

Masterson said he too was a proponent of getting as many dollars as possible into the classroom.
“It’s a matter of priorities,” he said. “It’s all about prioritizing what we already have (in the budget).”
Finally, they were asked what their goals were and what they hoped to accomplish.

“If I were to achieve my goals, you would see a level tax parity between Butler County and Sedgwick County,” Masterson said of the higher taxes in Andover.

He also wanted to lower taxes statewide and have new power plants.

DeVries said his goals included energy, economic development and education.
“In many ways these go together,” he said.

He wanted the state to be part of biofuels and to get invested in these.
Each candidate also gave closing statements.

“I want to thank my campaign team,” DeVries said. “It is made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We are a cross section of this district. We believe government should be ethical and accountable.”

Masterson said “obviously the choice is very clear.”

“If you support more government control and deceitful attacks, then you know who to vote for,” he said of DeVries.

There also were two candidates for the 75th District in the House, John Grange and Sarah Johnston.

“I am currently finishing my second term in the Kansas House and ask for a third term,” Grange said in his opening statement.

He pointed out that he has met payroll every week for 30 years in his business and had served on the USD 490 Board of Education.

“There is not a group, board or fundraiser I have not been involved with,” he said.

Johnston said she is running for the House because she believes “we have reached a moment in time when we need a representative who will represent our interests and not out-of-district interests. We need someone to truly represent our area.”

She also said Grange has not been truthful about himself, pointing out he also got a D from Kansans for Higher Education for education funding.

The first question to the candidates was about a statement Gov. Kathleen Sebelius made that wind turbines should not be built in the heart of the Flinthills and if they agreed with that.

“I absolutely agree the Flinthills should be off limits,” Johnston said. “The Flinthills are a worldwide and statewide treasure.”

She did believe there were other areas in the state where they could develop wind power though.
Grange asked again if the question was if they agreed with Sebelius or not.

“I agree with her,” he said.

When asked by the moderator if he wanted to elaborate further he added, “I’m a firm believer in alternative sources of energy.”

He said he would also encourage individuals to develop smaller turbines to run a home or business.

He said they do need to retain the beauty of the Flinthills.

The next question was what they would do to bring jobs and industry to Kansas.

Grange pointed out that growth is 40 percent from start-ups in a community, with 40 percent from expansion of current businesses. Out-of-state business brings in 10 to 15 percent of growth.

Knowing this, Grange said he would prefer to give incentives to those already here.
Johnston felt there was a lot of opportunity for job creation in green technology.

“It is important to recognize Butler County is really big and it has a tremendous amount of resources,” she said. “It is also important to look at the jobs we already have in Butler County.”

The next question was if there are too many units of local government in the state and how they would change that.

“As a state, Kansas does have too many,” Johnston said, “but when you look at the 75th District, I’m not comfortable saying that. I think we have functional units of government that can’t be replaced.”

Grange said he heard there are around 3,600 basic units of government in the state, which includes school boards, water districts and townships.

“I think an important this is local control,” he said, adding that if there was consolidation the “two entities should decide to consolidate.”

Finally, they were asked about their stand on funding education.

“It’s been said I say one thing and do something else, but we have to know where the money will come from,” Grange said.

He pointed out that 67 percent of every dollar goes to K-12 education.

“How much is enough?” he asked.

He said they need accountability, although he felt local schools had done a good job with funds.

“I do support teachers’ salaries and differential pay for hard-to-fill positions,” he said.

Johnston said it was important to recognize how dependent students and families in the 75th District are on schools and regents.

“In addition to appropriated funding for K-12, I feel it is time to look at state-wide funding for our community colleges,” she said. “I agree accountability is extremely important and feel our teachers, administrators and school boards do have accountability.”

In their closing statements, Johnston pointed out there are only two physicians in the legislature in Kansas, and they are both in the Senate.

She felt health care was a serious issue, and that as a doctor, she would serve the people well.
“I too would look forward to serving you in the Kansas House,” Grange said.

He pointed out his column he writes weekly to keep people up-to-date on things happening in the House.

“I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to serve and I feel it’s an honor I’ve been given by you and other voters in the district.”