Views of individual Kansans clear in new poll

The Kansas legislature will convene next week with as much an eye to their upcoming elections as to the policy work they’ll tackle. Certainly, some policy-making will be done, but the overriding concern will be the electoral calendar. The views of individual Kansans who are most-concerned about their family and local opportunities can be lost, paradoxically, in that shuffle.

Kansans care less about political parties than they do about what policies are taking shape that allows them to keep more of what they earn. Kansans want our state government focusing on core services. And, they want their children prepared for success outside of the classroom.

These views are now a little more clear with the release of a poll from Kansas Policy Institute. We asked 519 registered Kansas voters for their thoughts on some of the policy questions that are most-likely to be addressed in this upcoming session.

  • –  Taxes: 55% want revenue shortfalls to be addressed via spending cuts, and 74% want the federal tax “windfall” returned to their pockets.
  • –  Medicaid: 56% don’t want Medicaid expanded, and 71% want work requirements for Medicaid.
  • –  Schools: 73% want certification that money is being spent on education instruction, and a plurality support expanded school choice.
  • –  Worker Freedom: 2/3s believe government employees should be able to leave a union whenever they choose.
  • –  Property Taxes: 75% want more transparency in local/county property tax changes with votes for any hike, no matter if that is drive by valuations or mill rates.

These results come from a statewide public opinion survey conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of Kansas Policy Institute. SurveyUSA is a leading national polling firm and was recognized for accuracy in the 2016 elections. The poll was conducted in mid-December, and complete results and methodology are available online. SurveyUSA no longer uses margin of error but their Credibility Interval varies with each question around 5.0%.

Regardless of thoughts on the “Brownback” tax debates, Kansas is heading for a half a billion shortfall in the next two years. This is driven by record-setting spending hikes supported by several tax increases. Voters are apparently tired of their taxes increasing. What’s more, when federal taxes were cut several years ago it effectively increased taxes at the state level. Something to the tune of $100 million per year is now being collected by Kansas in what amounts to a “found wallet.” This is where 74% want that money returned. This support is consistent with tracking on this same question from a year ago when 71% answered the same way.

Gov. Kelly has led a push for Medicaid expansion – under the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare – since coming into office with the idea that citizens want to expand this government-provided health insurance. 56% of Kansas DO NOT want Medicaid expanded while a combined 36% would like to see it expanded with different pay-fors, 22% want to see it expanded with spending cuts instead of tax increases. With an estimated $1.2 billion price tag over the next decade, it gets harder to see how taxpayers want this welfare benefit extended to the healthy, working-aged Kansans that would be covered via an expansion. What has been missing from multiple plans to expand Medicaid is a strong work-requirement, but nearly ¾ of respondents indicated this should be mandated in any Medicaid program.

The full poll asked these and other questions available here. Many of these questions include tracking information from previous opinion surveys.

Kansans want to know that government functions well and takes great care with their money and lives. It can sometimes be hard to follow what is going on in Topeka. But, at least the citizens surveyed here seem to understand that what goes on in the statehouse impacts their life in real ways. Spending restraint, a secure safety net that encourages personal dignity, freedom of association, a student-focused education, and not being taxed out of a home are all strongly held beliefs.

Kansans understand these are not abstract constitutional concepts. Instead, they are the concrete ways in which a family can pursue their American Dream without having to worry about the next generation moving away to pursue theirs.