On Windy Hill: Laura Kelly earned my vote – Osage County Online | Osage County News

On Windy Hill: Laura Kelly earned my vote

For the Kansas governor’s race, I’m throwing my support to Gov. Laura Kelly. She has earned my vote and deserves it. I’m just an old voter out here on a windy Osage County hill, and I know my thoughts are unimportant, but here are some reasons I support her.

When Gov. Kelly was elected, she faced a state that was a mess. Former governor Brownback had abandoned his constituents before finishing his term, and jetted off to his new federal job at the Vatican, leaving Kansas with deteriorating roads, low tax revenue, and a struggling business climate.

“My way or crumbling highways” seemed to be the then Kansas Legislature’s and governor’s creed as they gutted the state’s highway fund for other supposed economic development purposes. Robbing from the KDOT Bank was known statewide as a way the legislature filled holes in the budget, even though they were putting the state in hock for years.

After four years in office, Gov. Kelly has been able to start turning things around. She publicly vowed she would close the KDOT Bank, which she did, securing future investment into our roads. She supported funding the previously promised road projects, saying promises made should be promises kept – even if the promise of good roads was made by previous administrations.

Here in Osage County, we can see the evidence of Kelly’s reinvestment into the state, as the new highway to Osage City is almost complete. Over the past 15 years or so, rebuilding the seven-mile stretch of state Highway 31 had been dangled under citizens’ noses only to be taken away again and again. Promises made were forgotten as Brownback’s trickle-down tax plan failed to trickle down to the K-31 project at the bottom of the T-Works list.

Changing strategy and policy, Gov. Kelly figured out how to turn on the faucet for funding Kansas road projects. “Promises made, promises kept,” is a slogan Gov. Kelly can claim, even though her predecessors made the vows.

Overcoming the failed Brownback policies would not have been an easy row to hoe for any new governor. Facing low revenues, slow growth, diminished government services, and low morale of the civil service force, Gov. Kelly proved her willingness to work with the Republican legislature to reverse the failed tax experiment. Under the leadership of Gov. Kelly, tax revenue is recovering, and Kansas is again in a position to fund state services, programs, and public employees’ salaries, along with fully funding our public schools.

Gov. Kelly greatly gained my admiration during the beginning of the pandemic. The federal government seemingly floundered in the face of the emergency. Federal agencies couldn’t find the pandemic plan sitting on the shelf; the then-president and cronies seemed focused on benefitting from the sanitary facemask industry before considering citizens’ safety.

Gov. Kelly, like all U.S. governors, was suddenly shoved into the position of a public health officer, trying to keep Kansas citizens safe while navigating through the unknown effects of an unprecedented pandemic. Instead of floundering, Gov. Kelly set out to work with experts to first try to keep citizens safe from each other, and then keep the necessary functions such as farming and the food industry operating. Kansas’ methods to keep the state’s meat production facilities functioning were lauded nationwide. And although we all suffered from the sudden onset pandemic, Gov. Kelly’s initial shutdown was actually successful in the short term. People got tired of sitting at home, but most of them didn’t get sick until they started milling about again. That early shutdown experiment didn’t pan out in the long run, but we had some of the lowest infection rates in the country at the time. The valuable lesson we learned from it – just stay away from each other – is still an effective prevention method.

During the pandemic, though, while people around us were dying from it, the legislature set out to make sure the governor didn’t have too much power to keep us safe during an emergency. In their wisdom to protect us from possible horrors of forced masking and social distancing, the legislature stripped public health authority from the governor and our state-paid health experts, and instead handed our lives over to the country smarts of county commissioners and local health departments. I was really encouraged with my county commissioners’ knowledge of pandemic safety after I attended a commission meeting and was required to have a public thermometer shoved down my gullet by an unmasked, ham-fisted deputy sheriff. County health nurse’s orders, commissioners said, shrugging at my complaint.

I’m thankful we had Gov. Kelly when the pandemic started, but I’m sorry that our legislature couldn’t have shown more care about citizens’ health and safety. More than a few of us are probably still alive due to the governor’s early interventions. To the legislature’s credit, it is reassuring that I can now go to any doctor or veterinarian and demand they prescribe horse wormer for anything that ails me. (Ironically, the Kansas legislature heard that 70 percent of Kansans want marijuana legalized or decriminalized, so they promptly legalized horse wormer for any health use.)

Regarding public emergencies, the legislature sure didn’t want the governor’s powers impeded when she eliminated sales tax on fencing and supplies for farmers and ranchers affected by wildfires. And though sales tax relief for those affected by disaster made a good campaign stance, cutting sales tax on food was not as easy for legislators to swallow. With Gov. Kelly pushing for the elimination of food tax – something legislators have been mumbling about for years, usually during campaign season – a tax elimination plan finally got through, and we only have to wait six years for full relief. Luckily, though, it only took legislators a couple of months to fully implement statewide sports betting.

While the legislators take credit for encouraging more gambling in the state, Gov. Kelly can take credit for reviving Kansas business. Companies, factories, warehouses and jobs are moving to and starting up in Kansas during her first term. Kansas is now recognized as one of the top states in which to do business. She has worked toward opening trade agreements with the United States’ neighboring countries, helping many Kansas farmers who rely on exporting their products. The results prove she can compromise with the uncompromising for the betterment of Kansas.

I don’t pay much attention to campaign ads, but they are difficult to ignore during the few weeks before an election. Something I’ve noticed is the difference between Gov. Kelly’s campaign messages and her opponent’s. The governor’s messages continue to be positive and focus on her successes, while her opponent’s messages are negative, finger-pointing, and based on complaints, ambiguity and innuendo. It’s sad to see Kansas’ top attorney and law enforcement officer, who should strive to be known as the most honest person in the state, run campaign messages based on deceit and dishonesty. Paying attention to the differences in these ads could indicate the differences in how we would be governed depending on who wins the election.

Windy I might be, but those are my thoughts and my mind is made up. Gov. Laura Kelly has earned Kansans’ votes and she deserves them.

On Windy Hill, Wayne White sometimes writes about things he thinks about. He not only lives on a windy hill, he’s been known to be a windy writer.

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