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Schmidt discusses taxes, abortion in Pittsburg visit


PITTSBURG, Kan. — Derek Schmidt, Kansas attorney general and Republican candidate for governor, visited Pittsburg on Monday, where he sat down for an interview with the Morning Sun about his “Retire Tax Free” plan, as well as discussing the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. 

Kansas has one of the worst tax loads for retirees in the country, Schmidt said, “and it’s combined — it’s property, sales, and income, it’s the overall effect on folks who are retired that is problematic.” 

Having passed legislation this year to phase out the food sales tax, Schmidt said, the next step the state can take is to work on reducing income taxes for retired people, as property taxes are determined to a much greater extent at the local level. Schmidt noted that plans similar to his proposal have already been implemented in other states. 

“So this is not a novel idea,” he said, adding that Iowa recently joined a group of a dozen other states with similar tax policies. “So Kansas has an opportunity to be in the forefront of this movement, as opposed to waiting and trying to catch up later.” 

Kansas has an out-migration problem, Schmidt said, and because retirees tend to be more mobile, it would be worthwhile for the state to incentivize them to stay, or move here from other states once they retire. 

As a group, retirees “tend to have more wealth and capital because they’ve accumulated it over a lifetime,” Schmidt said. There is “no doubt,” he said, that there would be “a positive financial benefit” from his proposal. “We can’t quantify it at this point. Smart people I’m sure will do that at some point, but everybody who stays here and retires in the community, as opposed to moving to Florida or Texas, spends money in the community, pays property tax, pays sales tax, causes economic activity, and those all have a positive benefit.” 

Despite the financial benefits that would come with more retirees and their money staying in Kansas, Schmidt said the cost of his proposal is estimated at about $350 million when fully implemented. 

“A third of that cost we already have paid for, and we did that this year by working with the Legislature to pay off more than a billion dollars in the state’s public pension debt. That frees up a little over $100 million a year in ongoing expenses for the state budget, so that’s $100 million a year that can be used as the major down payment on this proposal,” Schmidt said, adding that he hopes to work with the Legislature to find a way to pay the remaining cost while still maintaining a balanced budget. 

“As with every proposed piece of tax relief, part of the issue is making sure that the state can afford it without creating budget instability,” he said. “I’m absolutely dedicated to keeping this budget stable. I won’t let us be in a position where the state has trouble paying its bills. The state’s been there. We’re not going back to that.” 

In addition to promoting his plan to cut taxes for retirees, Schmidt also weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision. That decision, which was previously leaked but only officially announced last Friday and which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, means that the proposed “Value Them Both” amendment to the Kansas Constitution, which voters will approve or disapprove in a special election Aug. 2, will determine whether that right remains in place in Kansas. 

Kansans are going to decide at the ballot box on August 2nd what role the state courts ought to play in overseeing the regulation of access to abortion services, and we’ll be the first state in the country where voters have a say post-Dobbs, post-the U.S. Supreme Court decision, so there’s tremendous focus, you know, on the vote,” Schmidt said. 

As has previously been reported, Schmidt said he will be voting “yes” on the Value Them Both amendment, which if approved, will open the door to further restrictions on abortion in Kansas. 

“I think it’s important to preserve the existing regulations we have on the books and I think those are in jeopardy under the current state of the law in Kansas, which is why I think voters ought to consider changing the law,” Schmidt said. 

Asked what he would say to try to persuade someone who is already committed to voting “no” on Value Them Both to nonetheless vote for him in November, Schmidt said he understands that people’s political views don’t always align neatly with party platforms. 

“I recognize people have strongly-held views on both sides of the question, and that’s why we have elections and why people vote,” Schmidt said. “In terms of the governor’s race, we’ll be building support, receiving support from a wide range of Kansans — people who vote ‘yes,’ I’m sure some who vote ‘no,’ people of good faith with strongly held views on both sides, or now perhaps all sides, since there’s going to be a lot of more detailed discussion, I think, about the nature of the state’s role in regulating access to abortion services. So, you know, we’ll take support from across the spectrum and I think we’ll get a pretty wide range of support. I think folks just expect you to be reasonable and honest about your point of view.” 

Schmidt has previously said his reasons for supporting Value Them Both include wanting to keep existing limits on late-term abortions in place, along with requirements that parents be notified if their minor child seeks to have an abortion, and a ban on taxpayer funds being used to pay for abortion. 

“My view has always been to support exceptions in the terrible cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is in danger, and that hasn’t changed,” Schmidt said Monday. 

On a less controversial subject, Schmidt noted that he had driven south to Pittsburg on Monday, saying “it’s good to see the progress being made on U.S. 69.” The highway expansion project is “huge for the region,” he added, saying that once the project to connect I-44 to Kansas City with a four-lane highway is complete, “I think it’s going to allow us to move on to a broader discussion about the transportation network in the region and how to, for example, connect then Pittsburg and 69 going west” to Wichita. 

“We obviously have roads, but how those can be upgraded to perhaps allow and encourage more investment and growth on an east-west construction as well,” he said. “We have to finish the north-south first.”