In a speech very similar to one he gave to Lions in April, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, who is running for governor, reiterated to those at the Clay Center Rotary Club Thursday that the state should be ran like a business, like he has run the office of the Kansas Insurance Commissioner.
“Right now it seems like the state needs a financial person in charge,” he said. “We’ve got tax issues, we’ve got growth and spending issues, we’ve got all kinds of issues going on. I’m a CPA, I’m a businessman. I’ve worked my career in business and proven that you can bring the good things out from the business world into government and do government and at a lower cost.”
He touted the success he’s had in the insurance department as the Kansas Insurance Commissioner
Selzer said the thought process that “you got to spend that budget or you won’t get that budget renewed the next year” just isn’t the right way to run government.
“We took a different attitude,” he said. “We said if we didn’t need to spend that cost, we wouldn’t do it. And we have actually reduced the number of employees in the insurance department by 20 percent, reduced our costs by about 16 or 17 percent. Our productivity has gone way up because we ask our people in the insurance department to focus on the customer. Who’s the customer? It’s those 20,000 people in Kansas who call us every year with a problem with insurance, with ObamaCare -- you name the insurance issue.”
He said the department also deals with insurance companies and agents and reduced to turn-around time on when they respond to their inquiries.
Of the four candidates remaining in the governors race with name recognition, the others being Kris Kobach, Jim Barnett and Jeff Coyler, he said he’s the only one who’s a businessman and K-State wildcat.
Selzer said he’s always been a hard worker. He worked two jobs while get his degree in accounting form K-State.
He then became a CPA in Kansas City area for six years, then got an MBA and got into the insurance business for over 20 years before he was elected insurance commissioner.
“My career has been business ... always business -- no politics at all other than a small city council stint in my 20s,” he said, adding that when he retired he ran for and was elected Kansas Insurance commissioner in “very crowded Republican primary” by “an important margin” and the General Election by “a significant margin” four years ago.
“We’ve really had some interesting success, and I think it’s because my roots are in the center part of Kansas, just like yours are,” adding that he grew up in McPherson on the Chisholm Trail 50 miles south of here on K-15. “I am deeply rooted in rural Kansas and understand the rural part, small community part of Kansas and also understand the urban part of Kansas, Johnson County, where I’ve live most of my adult life.”
He said he wonder why he couldn’t accomplish at the state level what he’s accomplished in the insurance department because “it seems so straight-forward” and that question prompted him to run for governor.
“It’s hard to execute, but it can be done,” he said. “We’ve proved it in the insurance department.”
Selzer said his department is focused on efficiency, productivity, responsiveness, and more competition. By state, the insurance department is require to educate and advocate for consumers, regulate 1,800 insurance companies operating in the state, certify 112,000 non-resident agents and regulate securities.
“The the thing I thing should be doing in the broader state (government) that we’ve done in our office is that we’ve done things so that one person can manage more inquiries, answer more questions,” he said. “One person can do more, so it makes sense on how we serve our customers. We interact electronically no that we ever did before -- all kinds of things that any forward thinking manager would try to implement if they were trying to think how we could be less costly, how we can serve Kansans better, but at a lower cost.”
He also said he’s seen public-private partnerships work effectively, “and that can work in Kansas” and they can “leverage scarce resources at the state level with public-private partnerships”
On other political topics, he said it’s interesting that the state’s uninsured rate remains lower than the national average despite the state not expanding Medicaid. The state’s rate of opioid abuse is also lower than the national average.
He said that the uninsured rate is low only because Kansans want to work and make sure their families are insured. Currently the state is ranked sixth lowest in opioid deaths per thousand -- largely because of a voluntary tracking system that doctors and pharmacists use that is very effective.
Selzer also stressed that for Kansas to grow, agriculture has to grow because the state is “over 50 percent ag.” He said to grow, the state need to “a champion” for ag and growth.
“Last year Kansas was the only state that did not achieve any growth in its economy,” he said. “That has to change. We can’t possibly make investments in education and infrastructure and all those other things if we don’t have growth in our economy.
“We’re focused on making Kansas grow and every day, lean in on cost just like we did in the insurance department. I know it can be done. We’ve proved it can be done. We’re going to continue doing it.”