I am running to represent District 121 in the Kansas House of Representatives
My name is James Rexford, and I am running for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives to represent District 121. Kansas House District 121 is mostly in western Olathe, between Highway K-7 on the east and Moonlight Road on the west, but also reaches north past K-10 to 79th Street in Lenexa, and down south to part of Gardner. You can view a map of the district here: http://www.kslegislature.org/…/district_map_h_121.pdf
I am a fifth-generation Kansan, born and raised in Topeka. My parents are retired now, but before retiring my mom was a psychologist working mostly in the Kansas criminal justice system. My dad operated his own air charter service during most of my childhood, and then he later worked for a Kansas-based railroad construction company. Both of my parents were raised by farming families, in southwest Kansas and southwest Virginia. They met when my mom was a student majoring in Biology at William and Mary College. She signed up to go to a dance on a blind date with an Army soldier. She didn’t like the guy. But she decided to try it again, and that is how she met my dad.
After graduating from Topeka High School, I went to the University of Kansas where I received a B.A. with majors in Slavic Languages and Literatures, Political Science, and Russian and East European Studies. After KU I went to the University of Notre Dame, from which I received a J.D.
Following law school I returned to Kansas, took the Kansas bar exam, and began working for a large corporation headquartered in Kansas, where I would spend over 12 years primarily working on drafting and negotiating business contracts. Since then I have spent some time studying economics in graduate school (simply out of a desire to learn more about the subject, and being fortunate enough to have had time and money to do so), practiced law in a solo capacity, and experienced the litigation side of the law working both with a small litigation firm and a large litigation resource company.
I have lived in Olathe for the past 10 years in the Persimmon Hill neighborhood (just a short walk away from the new Olathe West high school). I like to read, play the guitar (maybe not well, but I do it anyway), listen to music (sometimes I need to hear music played well, so I stop playing and listen to someone else), and spend time with the many great friends I have been graced with.
I have never run for office, and I was hesitant to do so. I suppose I still am. But I hope to offer the voters of Kansas House District 121 a good and different choice to represent them in the Kansas House of Representatives. I am motivated to seek political solutions that combine a respect for individual human rights and freedoms with a desire to build stronger communities. I will always focus on pragmatic policies that merge what is best on the right and the left of our political spectrum to achieve better lives for everyone, with an eye on prioritizing those who are the least well-off. I believe that we display what is good in the political realm with the quality of our actions toward those most in need of support. We should continually search for ways that we can make the lives of our neighbors and ourselves a little better. This has been the overall arc of history in our country. Government is not the only way to do this, but it is one of the most important tools we have. It almost always means relatively small efforts and accomplishments, not revolutionary ones. But the small work builds up to impressive change over time. We can do a better job of using government in Kansas than we have in recent years to improve our lives instead of weakening our state with ill-conceived and divisive policy. If you think the same, then I may be the right choice to represent you.
Medicaid has been around since 1965, when it became law along with Medicare. Medicaid is a program to provide low-income people with access to health care. While the federal government sets general guidelines, each state administers the program in their own specific way.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014 states were provided the opportunity to expand Medicaid eligibility to individuals under age 65 (Medicare is available for those 65 or older) in families with incomes below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. Under the Medicaid program, the federal government pays 90% of the costs, and the state pays only 10%.
Despite this opportunity to expand access to health care to those Kansans most in need at very little cost to the state, Kansas has continued to fail to take advantage of this opportunity. What has this cost us?
An estimated 150,000 Kansans could benefit from Medicaid expansion. That is 1 out of every 20 Kansans. And this is an estimate from before the current pandemic and accompanying economic downturn. These are your neighbors most in need, whom we have failed.
To date, it means that Kansas has lost over $4.3 billion dollars in federal funding for Medicaid. Does this mean that federal taxes on Kansans have gone down to offset this forfeiting of federal funds? Absolutely not. It means we are not getting the full value of the federal taxes we pay whether we seize this opportunity or not.
Medicaid expansion also means jobs. An estimated 13,000 jobs will be created in Kansas if we expand Medicaid. Besides being good in itself, this job creation will also mean greater tax revenue for the state of Kansas, which will in turn facilitate paying for the costs of Medicaid expansion in the state. With Medicaid expansion, we not only expand coverage to those Kansans that have no where else to turn, but we also help the Kansas economy.
We can do better. I will vote for Medicaid expansion. Clearly this is a good policy for Kansas. Not having already passed Medicaid expansion has made Kansas weak and less capable of taking care of our neighbors most in need. Oklahoma and Missouri have both recently voted for Medicaid expansion. There is no good reason that we should be losing this health care version of sports’ border challenge. If I am elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, you can count on me to vote to expand this program, and that will make Kansas a better place to live.
You can learn more about Medicaid expansion and how it will benefit Kansas from the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas at the link below:
In Kansas, our state government spends nearly half of the state budget’s general fund on education. Public education has always been important to the people of Kansas. It is part of our very founding, as evidenced in the Kansas Constitution. Back in 1859, before Kansas even became a state, what would become Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, focused on education, was ratified in October of that pre-Civil War year. 160 years ago, education was so important to our state’s founders that they listed it as the very next item in the Kansas Constitution after describing the basic structure of the state government’s separation of powers, election processes, and voting rights. Article 6 states that not only must the legislature establish and maintain a school system (Section 1), but also that the legislature must suitably finance our schools and establish the schools as being public in nature (Section 6). You can read the Kansas Constitution here: https://www.kssos.org/other/pubs/KS_Constitution.pdf
When it comes to our public schools, we can’t afford to experiment with imprudent fiscal policies, hoping for magical outcomes. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn, Kansas will face a very challenging budget situation over at least the next year. Legislators will have to make tough decisions. Those decisions should include continuing to fully fund our public schools. It isn’t only constitutionally required by our state’s most fundamental law, it is also good public policy. Strong schools make Kansas strong. The better our public schools, the better will be the future for our children, both in the workplace, and in their private lives as residents of Kansas. You can learn more about the Kansas state budget here: https://budget.kansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/FY2021_Comparison_Report-7-22-2020-1.pdf
If I am elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, I will vote to fully fund our public schools. It is good for Kansas kids. It is good for Kansas.
GREEN ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE
Kansas is already a leader in wind energy production, ranking 4th in the country in installed wind capacity. In 2019, wind generated 41% of electricity produced in Kansas. That beat coal, which was at 33%. More electricity is generated in Kansas then by any other source. We now have over 6,600 Mega-watts of installed capacity. That is enough to power nearly 2 million homes. And it is enough to avoid the emission of 8.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But we can do more. We are only touching the surface of this resource in Kansas. One of the challenges to building more wind farms, as well as solar farms, is the lack of adequate transmission lines to get the power to the homes and firms that can use it. But when the wind farms are built, everyone benefits: the farmer can still farm around the towers, the landowner gets a rewarding payment from the energy company, the energy company gets income, the state gets increased tax revenues, and everyone gets a cleaner environment.
If I am elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, then I will work to find ways to incentivize even more green energy production in our state, and ease the ability of those firms and consumers who want to make a better energy choice for both Kansas and the world.
REDUCING THE SALES TAX ON FOOD
Kansas has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation. And unlike many other states, such as Missouri, we charge the full sales tax on groceries. This burdens the least-well-off Kansans the most. I believe it is unjust to tax food, a survival necessity, at the same rate at which we tax other goods and services. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, Kansas will face budget challenges in the present and near future. But if I am elected to the Kansas House, then one of my goals will be to find a way to reduce this regressive tax on food.
Paid for by Rexford for Kansas – Gerald K. Gentry PhD, Treasurer