Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said he would advocate for accountability and transparent spending if elected as governor.
Selzer spoke with The Mercury on Thursday on his way to a Kansas Farm Bureau forum in Junction City and KFB board meeting in the Colby area.
He is a part of the Republican field of candidates that includes Gov. Jeff Coyler, who took over for Sam Brownback this year; Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; and former state Sen. Jim Barnett.
Selzer, a K-State alumnus and member of the KSU Accounting Hall of Fame, said his credentials as a certified public accountant can guide the state through its budget and management issues.
He said the governor has to create a culture of efficiency and productivity for government employees.
As an example of efficiency, Selzer used his current tenure as the state insurance commissioner, a position he’s held since 2014.
He said the department is handling 30 percent more customer inquiries with 20 percent fewer employees.
“We are doing more work with fewer employees because our employees are looking for ways to be more productive and do more with less,” he said. “We can do that every day. We can do that throughout state government.”
Selzer also mentioned his agriculture background as a reason people should vote for him. He said he grew up on a farm in central Kansas and currently owns a farm in Miami County.
“We need to make Kansas grow, and that starts with making ag grow,” he said. “Ag accounts for at least 42 percent of our economy here in Kansas. We have other important aspects of our economy, but if ag doesn’t grow, Kansas won’t grow.”
Selzer said the state needs to develop and attract both large and small companies in the agriculture sector. He said he’s also interested in improving broadband infrastructure for rural Kansas.
Selzer said he’s looking for accountability in every aspect of Kansas government including education, which accounts for $4 billion of the state’s $6.5 billion in general fund spending.
He said the focus should be on whether every level of education is properly aligned with current needs, and accountability can include performance targets and metrics.
“We don’t know if (education) is being run as efficiently as it can,” Selzer said. “That has to be the first step before we put more dollars in.”
An amendment is desired by state Republican leaders as a potential solution to school finance lawsuits.
Selzer said he isn’t sure if their attempt will be successful, but he believes the Kansas Supreme Court has “overstepped its bounds” with its rulings for increased funding.
Selzer said he would also “strongly prefer” that Kansas doesn’t expand Medicaid, which states can choose to do under the Affordable Care Act.
If Kansas did expand Medicaid, Selzer said he would want “a very robust jobs requirement or education requirement.”
In January, Kentucky became the first state to set a jobs requirement for able-bodied adults who receive Medicaid benefits to work at least 20 hours a week.
A renewed debate on gun control has taken place after Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people in a mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Hundreds of Manhattan High School students participated in a national school walkout on Wednesday morning to remember the victims and advocate for gun policy change.
When asked whether the state should do anything with its gun laws, Selzer said he “very much” supports the Second Amendment, which provides the right for gun ownership.
He said he supports teachers having guns in the classroom, but he doesn’t support cash incentives for teachers to carry guns as President Donald Trump has suggested. Colyer and Kobach have also spoken in favor of those incentives.
“That makes no sense to arm somebody who’s not trained, not comfortable and not experienced in operating or handling a gun,” Selzer said.
[via The Manhattan Mercury]