Liberal Leader & Times: Selzer seeks to bring business approach to state government

As the most recent Kansas insurance commissioner, Ken Selzer, who is also a CPA, practiced operating the state office with more efficiency.

“We started to manage the office of insurance more like a business,” he said. “We were just thoughtful. We tried to always think about whether or not we needed to hire somebody else when somebody left, always tried to be thoughtful, innovative in how we arranged the jobs and tried to get people focused on the customer. Imagine that in a government office.”

In this way, Selzer brought the cost of insurance down significantly, as well as the number of people working in his office, a figure that went down by as much as 20 percent. This formula, he said, led to more success.

“Productivity goes way up, and people were wondering why we couldn’t bring that same attitude and philosophy to the broader state government,” he said.

This reason is why Selzer, who was at the Seward County Farm Bureau office Tuesday afternoon, is running for governor.

“I’m not a rock thrower,” he said. “I’m not a flame thrower. I’m not trying to get in the press all the time. We’re just trying to do the job, the statutory job that was assigned to the Kansas Insurance Department.”

Selzer said if he is elected governor, he will take these same principles to that office.

“We’re going to always lean in on costs,” he said. “That’s a huge priority. Be more productive. Demand that we get more out of the tax dollars that you and I pay to the government. Demand that we get more out of it, and manage the office that way.”

Selzer described just how much the Sunflower State’s economy is struggling.

“In 2017, Kansas was the fourth lowest economy, flattest economy,” he said. “We actually had slightly negative growth. There were only three other states that performed worse than Kansas did last year. That has to change. The national average was up around 2.5 or 2.4 percent growth. We were at a slight negative growth.”

Selzer said taxes are applied to the economy, which in turn generates revenues.

“Of course, our revenues don’t perform well when we have an economy that is lagging the nation,” he said. “We’re going to focus on making Kansas grow.”

Selzer said one step further means effects for the people he was speaking to Tuesday afternoon – farmers.

“That means making ag grow,” he said. “Ag is more than 42 percent of our economy. It’s more when you add on the processing that goes on top of the original production in ag.”

As governor, Selzer said he will make sure agriculture grows, and this means a lot of things for Kansas.

“It means championing ag, talking about ag, developing new markets with other countries,” he said. “It means developing markets for products we produce here in Southwest Kansas. It means championing ethanol. That has a direct impact on ag. It means doing a lot of things.”

Selzer is one of many candidates in the governor’s race, and he said he understands the issues farmers face better than the rest of those in the field.

“That’s why we’re spending so much time in rural Kansas talking about who I am and we’re coming from and what we can and hope to do,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who think this governor’s election will be dependent on how rural Kansas votes. We’re focused on it, and I’m comfortable in it. The others aren’t comfortable in this arena.”‘

Selzer said farming dictates what happens with the state’s economy.

“If ag doesn’t grow, Kansas doesn’t grow,” he said. “If Kansas doesn’t grow, we’re stagnant on our revenues, and when the Supreme Court says you’ve to dump in a bunch more money, there’s no way to turn other than raising taxes.”

Despite progress made by this year’s legislative sessions in Topeka, Selzer said more still needs to be done to rally the Kansas economy.

“The legislature acts like they’ve got the problem solved, but in two more years, there’s huge budget issues facing us,” he said. “What the next governor of Kansas needs to do is make sure we’re operating as absolutely efficiently as we can so we can avoid pressure on property taxes, avoid pressure on other taxes.”

Selzer put an emphasis on all taxes the state collects as an area the next governor likewise needs to pay attention to.

“We’ve already paid more property taxes, and unless you have somebody who can articulate it, it’s going to get stuffed down your throats,” he said.

Also, Selzer said farming needs to be a big part of the platform for the state’s next head of state.

“We need a governor who will stand firm, who will champion ag, who will be a salesperson for ag, who’s focused on making Kansas grow,” he said. 

Selzer grew up in farming and continues in the industry even now as a state leader. This, he said, makes him comfortable in the farmer’s environment.

“I know what you’ve been through,” he said. “I know the rural way of life. I know what hard work is. I know what hard physical work is.”

Another focus Selzer said needs to happen is that of keeping Kansas people in Kansas.

“There’s two stages for migration from rural to urban in Kansas and from rural to out of state and of course from urban to out of state,” he said.

A large step in that direction is bringing better broadband to Kansas.

“We need broadband across the state,” Selzer said. “We really need more thorough penetration of broadband. That enables people to do so many things, including keeping people interested in living more rural segments of our population.”

Selzer said on the local level, school districts can be a driving force for the economy in a community if superintendents and school boards are on board with the needs of a local business community.

“Getting people coming out of high school who are thinking about local jobs, who are thinking about technical jobs, all of those things, trying to align with the needs of the business community, but certainly at the university level, focusing on majors that are employable when they get out of school,” he said.

Immigration has long been an issue at the local, state and federal levels, and in particular, Selzer said Southwest Kansas’ economy is incredibly dependent on immigration.

“I totally understand the need and will advocate for these ag worker visas that might have longer than a six-month time frame on them,” he said. “Right now, they’re limited to six months, so these feedlots and other folks that hire immigrant workers, they train somebody and they’re gone in six months because their visa has expired. You can’t get them back.”

Selzer said efforts continue to extend periods for visas to as much as two to three years to allow a person to benefit from the investment made in them.

“Kansas can’t grow if we aren’t supportive of fully-screened legal immigration,” he said. “I support President Trump in eliminating the lottery system they tried to do and reducing chain migration to the immediate family instead of many, many cousins out there so we can control it better. We do have to be supportive of fully-screened legal immigration.”

As far as his campaign goes, Selzer said he will be naming his lieutenant governor in the next week or so, and that person is from Western Kansas, giving hope for those in Southwest Kansas.

 

[via Leader & Times]


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