Why I'm Running

It is time to replace the cynicism and secrecy in the Statehouse with the openness and optimism of the Kansas spirit.

Our policy makers’ plans should be informed and empowered by an optimistic view of who we are and what we can do if we work together.

Our leaders must return to the Kansas traditions in which our politics honor our people and unite us for common purposes.

We can do this, and it will mean all the difference for the future of Kansas.

The right to Access health care for ourselves and our loved ones

One of my first actions as Governor will be to accelerate the overhaul of KanCare.

The current program is not working and must be replaced. Kansas families and providers of medical care and long-term services must regain their rightful role as advisers to our government. Out-of-state insurance companies may continue to play a role, but they will no longer be allowed to control $9 billion of our resources. It is the duty of your elected representatives to wisely and effectively manage the tax resources provided by our citizens and ensure that every Kansan — in every corner of the state — has access to the care they need.

We must expand Medicaid now.

I have a core philosophy: Work with others to get things done, regardless of party. I do not believe in standing against something because the policy emanated from the other party. If it improves the lives of Kansans, then I am for it. Today, our federal tax dollars are being spent in other states for no other reason than ideology. Our children and seniors would receive 87% of Medicaid expansion dollars in this state, but we have refused to accept our own tax dollars for no other reason than blind party politics. How much have we lost? Two billion dollars and counting, meant for our neediest, as well as the hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes and other providers who go unpaid. This must stop. 

Kansas must be proactive in helping those left behind by our current health care system.

The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction for health care in this country because it got so many of our working people health coverage. But small business owners and self-insurers who do not qualify for federal subsidies (many of them farmers) have seen their choices reduced and their premiums skyrocket to absurd, unsustainable levels. As your Governor, I would explore creating a risk pool for everyone caught in the middle — business owners who don’t have enough employees to have buying power, but want to provide a health benefit to employees. Those business owners currently have no leverage against their insurance company so rates continue to rise rapidly and plan choices have dwindled to nearly no choice at all. Health insurance should not be the largest part of a monthly budget for families or small businesses.

The divisive politics around women's reproductive rights helps no one.

This issue of reproductive rights has divided Kansans for nearly two generations. As a state representative, I cast votes that were consistent with the district I represented. As Governor, I represent a broader constituency, and I would veto any legislation that further restricts women’s rights to make their own reproductive health care choices. Kansas should not be spending millions of dollars legally defending abortion-related bills that are unconstitutional. Furthermore, I will support laws that ensure general health care services are available for all women and men in Kansas. This includes access to contraception and informed sex education. I believe all women in Kansas should have easy access to mammograms, HPV vaccines, anemia testing and HIV testing to name a few. Both sides of this difficult issue need to find common ground and cease talking past each other. While opinions on other social issues have changed with time, both sides of this issue seem more divided than ever. Kansans deserve a Governor that can respect and appreciate multiple viewpoints while trying to find a common way forward. 

Kansans in chronic pain or who are terminally ill should be allowed access to marijuana. 

The debate over marijuana is moving fast and will largely be played out at the federal level. Though there are many questions regarding how to appropriately administer marijuana for medicinal purposes, as your Governor, I will not stand in the way of Kansans who are looking for this option in their health care. I will not continue to fill our prisons with largely non-violent individuals caught up in minor drug offenses associated with this plant. 

The right to Excellent education

We must restore funding to our schools — for our children and for our future.

Why? Because businesses look for good schools when they make decisions to do business in our state. Parents look for good schools when they decide where to live. Young professionals look at school quality when making decisions about their careers. And our children deserve a quality education that will empower them to explore and achieve their dreams. The decisions made over the past seven years are slowly being reversed, but there is much work to do. As Governor, I will work every day to make sure our Kansas schools receive the funding they need.

We must pay, protect and respect our teachers if we want to attract and retain the very best.

Great teachers are the foundation of a great school. At the beginning of the 2017 school year, there were 1,500 teacher vacancies in Kansas. The pipeline of young people willing to dedicate their lives to teaching the next generation has dwindled, and Kansas must demonstrate that teaching is a profession we value and respect. As your Governor, I would increase pay to teachers, work with the Legislature to reinstate due process, and build a long-term, stable school finance plan so that districts can offer teachers a position with confidence and teachers can make career decisions knowing there is a brighter future ahead. 

I will put the energy and faith of the state behind our exciting classroom redesign.

Innovation has continued in this state despite record underfunding of our schools. Our current Department of Education is in the midst of exploring what the classroom of the future will look like, and as your Governor, I will stand ready to assist and fund the bold future when the Gemini and Mercury schools complete their exploration. Our world is always changing, and our classrooms must rise to change with it. 

We must restore our funding and commitment to our institutions of higher education. 

Our higher education system — from our Regents institutions to our community colleges to our technical colleges — offer Kansans the surest path toward rebuilding a strong middle class while attracting research investment from outside the state, drawing new young people to Kansas, inspiring entrepreneurial activity, and improving the quality of life for all Kansans. If we make a commitment to fund these institutions, we must keep it. As your Governor, I would appropriately fund Senate Bill 155 for our technical colleges and restore the cuts made to the Regents institutions. We cannot play one Regent against the other, and we must champion our research institutions — not play politics with their future academic standing. 

The right to An environment that is clean and water resources that are available

I believe that responsible stewardship of our air, water and land builds resilience into our economy. 

No other candidate in this race — Republican, Democratic or Independent — has dedicated more of her or his career to our natural resources than I have. Responsible stewardship means that our future generations will know that they can have economic options similar to ours. We are also only beginning to understand the societal and public health costs of our environmental consequences, and as Governor, I would respect that data and move appropriately. 

As your Governor, I will continue to develop alternative energy.

As a state with abundant natural resources, renewable energies fit well within our economic plan for growth. Like so much else associated with the ingenuity of Kansas businesses, we have seen some of the best growth in renewable energy when government has simply gotten out of the way and let it happen. Innovations have led to renewables being some of the most cost competitive energies in the marketplace, and Kansas will continue to see investment as long as we have a leader that will champion those innovations and create an environment in the state that is open and inviting for the industry. This is real investment of real dollars to Kansas landowners, workers, and financial institutions.

We can and must do more than plan for our future water needs.

A water plan fund does little to address future water needs if it is not funded. I would seek a dedicated revenue source, similar to Missouri’s, to fund protection of our natural resources. This investment would include investing in soil management practices, better technology to be smarter about how we use water for irrigation, and research into less thirsty crops. We must also convene a serious conversation about the long-term managed decline in the Ogallala Aquifer. 

As Governor, I will not shy away from discussing climate change. 

John Wesley Powell’s “dry line” separating the wet eastern half of the United States with the semi-arid west runs through Kansas. Kansas is a productive agricultural state, but we are not Iowa or southern Minnesota. Our rainfall is less predictable, our summers are hotter, and our margin for error more narrow. Small changes in climate elsewhere are magnified on our landscape. We must live within our ecological means.    

The right to Infrastructure and information technology investment

As Governor, I will create and fund a comprehensive infrastructure plan. 

We are a productive state, and whether it is our fuel, our manufactured goods, or our hundreds of millions of bushels of grain, productive economies like Kansas depend on being able to move our commodities outside of our borders. Infrastructure spending is critical — it improves the competitive edge for our goods, makes transportation around the state safer, and encourages economic development. On top of that, our infrastructure contractors — from engineers to asphalt companies — are some of Kansas’ largest employers. Robbing transportation funds to patch the state budget creates neglect within the system, and that neglect of our roads, rails, airports, bridges, water infrastructure, and wastewater treatment plants will only get more expensive the longer we look the other way. 

I will work with your elected representatives in the Legislature to make sure our transportation funds are not raided to make up for shortfalls in our general fund.

If we hope to have strong economic development in Kansas, the current business community and companies looking to move to our state need to know we have consistent funding of all our infrastructure needs. Good Kansas employers have moved hundreds of employees to other states just to keep them working. These workers live in Kansas, have families in Kansas, and want to work in Kansas. 

The recent Federal abandonment of "net neutrality" damages our ability to provide vital health and educational services across our state.

Technology can help make us a healthier and better-educated Kansas. Educational offerings over the internet can make our state one enormous classroom where every student can access every course of study.

At the same time, health care services can be made available across Kansas by connecting us to specialized providers, and by connecting providers for critical and life-saving collaboration.

The Internet must remain widely available to us all — and we must advance the ways that it connects us for our common good.

Kansas continues to have regions where broadband internet is not available, and this reality must cease. 

Broadband internet, and in many cases fiberoptics to the door, are available in some of the most rural parts of the state. However, there are still rural areas around some of the more populated cities in the state that do not have a reliable broadband provider. As a tool of medicine, education, business, and connectivity, broadband internet is no longer a luxury for only those who happen to live in the right place. This problem must cease to be a perennial talking point and become an issue we have solved as Kansans working with private providers. 

The right to Realize the American dream

Kansas was built on immigrants’ dreams — and today’s immigrant families are a part of the great Kansas tradition of working together for a better Kansas.

Tens of thousands of Kansas families — and our state’s agriculture industry — are rightly concerned by the reckless talk about drastic changes in our immigration policies in the U.S. Our state was built on immigrants' dreams, such as those of my Czech and Italian ancestors. Our early farmers and miners who settled here built our state, and early immigrant communities helped create the greatest wheat industry in the world.

I believe we can all contribute to our communities, whether it’s by starting a business or working the land to feed our fellow Kansans or people across the country and around the world.

As a 5th generation Kansan and farmer, I will be a Governor who works every day to ensure the voice of one of our most important economic drivers — agriculture — is heard in Washington on the issue of immigration.

Discrimination, masked as policy, must be defeated if we want our economy and agriculture industry to grow.

Even as we uphold our laws, we must never allow discrimination to divide us or distract us from who we are as Kansans. Thousands of sons and daughters of immigrants, whether Irish, Swedish, Mexican or Chinese, have helped defeat anti-immigrant poison through their contributions to Kansas. Many people of faith, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim, that settled here have helped defeat hatred.

I'm proud to live in a state that is growing more diverse by the day.

Diversity not only is good for the Kansas economy, it enriches our lives and our culture as well. As a legislator, I voted to extend the dreams of our immigrant ancestors by supporting in-state tuition for the Dreamers of our state. And, because I believe in accountability, I voted for laws requiring that those who drive on Kansas roads are required to be licensed drivers like everyone else.

We must restore civil protections for our LGBTQ state employees.

These protections were removed early in the Brownback Administration. I was one of the early Kansas legislators that fought against the so-called “marriage amendment” that defined marriage as only between one man and one woman, which was passed in 2005. The courts have now affirmed my position and society has moved considerably in the last decade, but equality still does not exist for everyone. 

Though much of Kansas’ recent trouble is fiscal in nature, we also fight the stigma that we have gone back in time. Restoring civil protections sends an important message to everyone watching Kansas, both within and outside the state. It tells people that the state that fought to be a “free state” is back. The state that gave women the right to vote long before the rest of the country is back. The state that was a part of Brown v. Board of Education is back. And we can send that message with this executive order on day one. 

The right to Earn a living with our own hard work

Kansas must improve our credit ratings and project the measured stability of a well-governed state focused on the future in order to attract businesses and create a strong job market. 

We must send a signal to employers and families around the country that Kansas is once again a stable, reliable place to do business. Businesses value stability and the confidence that they will not become the next source of the state’s tax needs when the train goes off the tracks. Young families need to know that the good schools and teachers they find in Kansas now will be here every year their children are in our classrooms. We must once again be a state pointed toward the future. 

Kansas was settled because of our plentiful natural resources. Our economic future lies in understanding, respecting and innovating around those same resources. 

During my time as a legislator and Secretary of Agriculture, I developed a philosophy of economic development: We should play to our strengths. We may not always win against other wealthier states for the newest industries. However, and I have seen this many times over as I have toured the state, we cannot only compete but lead the world in and around the industries that have been a part of Kansas for generations. Our agriculture, food, oil and gas, and manufacturing are rapidly changing and adjusting to new technology, and Kansas has been and should continue to be a leader in those sectors. When agriculture innovates, companies are created in some of our most rural areas without any state incentives at all. As your Governor, I bring an unmatched sense of our natural resources and how they can be leveraged to position Kansas to have an incredibly strong economy in the future. 

We must connect working Kansans with the employers who need them. 

Workforce development is critical to current and prospective employer’s ability to capture new business opportunities. I have heard too many times that a good Kansas business could have had an even better year but was simply not able to hire enough workers. Workforce development relies on several elements: Appropriate and affordable housing so that communities can compete for new growth, leveraging our technical schools and labor unions to make sure we have a properly trained labor force for the future, and a robust Regents system that can attract investment and incubate new entrepreneurs. 

Kansas workers have a right to be compensated appropriately for the contribution they make to their employer.

Kansas businesses need to be allowed to grow and prosper largely without the state telling them what to do. However, everyone that is working hard ought to be appropriately compensated for their work. As your Governor, I will work with business and labor to ensure that everyone contributing to a growing economy can feel the benefits of that growth. Kansas is a diverse state, and if local areas like Wyandotte County want their own local control to set wages, they should be allowed to do so.

Our working people are the backbone of the Kansas economy. Too often, their interests have been ignored. This indifference must end.

We must push harder — and legislate if we must — for a higher standard of living for our working friends and neighbors. The term “working poor” must be eliminated in Kansas. Wages for workers must be sufficient for them to feed their families and pay their bills.

Laws that establish compensation for injured workers must be seen as a way to protect the injured. We must support our people so they can return to work, support their families and strengthen the pool of qualified workers for all our employers.

Kansas should reduce or eliminate the sales tax on food. 

We have all heard from our elected officials: “Now is not a good time because of the financial crunch.” However, it seems that it is never a good time to give real tax relief to all Kansans, especially the neediest among us. Kansas has one of the highest sales tax rates on food in the nation. We can and must lower this rate, and as your Governor, I will work for tax reform that makes sense for Kansas.

Labor and management disagreements must be resolved in mutual terms to support our people AND strengthen our economy.

Organizations, which represent labor and professional groups — from the Kansas Medical Society to KNEA to the AFL-CIO — help us to better understand our Kansas economy. These groups elevate the standards of the workforce, speak up for the interests of their members, and have a right to exist with the encouragement of government. Politicians that demonize organized workers' groups are demonizing our history and our future.

Public employees represent thousands of Kansans, many of whom have spent their entire professional lives serving us. Police and firefighters, teachers and principals, highway safety workers and hospital staff, and those in state agencies who help us navigate the complex laws and rules promoted by every political generation of politicians. These public servants should never be used as punching bags by politicians looking to score cheap political points.

The right to A government that runs well at every level — and that makes serving Kansans its top priority

We must cherish the right to vote, and two challenges in this regard will receive my immediate attention: First, declining participation, and second, political influence that discourages voting.

First, we must make all Kansas citizens feel that their vote matters and that they have a stake in the future of our state. We should be innovative leaders in new ways for people to vote and technology that lets them know their vote is secure. 

Second, we should pay particular attention to minority voters and groups of voters that are often marginalized. Availability of voting days and places should be expanding for these groups, not contracting for political reasons. 

We continue to have one of the greatest networks of election reliability — our county clerks. They are the first line of defense and their offices work every day to maintain safe and secure voting across Kansas. We should respect them and the work that they do and our next Secretary of State needs to rebuild the steadiness of that office that has been lost in the last two terms. 

Kansans deserve openness, transparency and accountability. As Governor, this will be the foundation of my administration.​ In my first year as Governor, I will support the creation of an independent State Auditor who will provide an added safeguard to our citizens.

A state auditor will provide an unbiased leader for all Kansans to turn to with their concerns about their government. I believe an open and accessible government begins with leaders who are willing to listen to each other and all Kansans to find solutions that work for everyone. Now is the time to take action so we can reclaim our state and restore credibility and civility to Kansas.

Kansas doesn't lack good public servants. What we’ve lacked is good public leadership.

We need leaders who honor our public servants by creating a transparent culture, by honoring civil discourse, by promoting new ideas without the threat of Washington-style partisanship and game playing.

In the closing months of 2017, we all learned of the steady surrender to secrecy in our state government. Our civil servants and legislators are honorable Kansans. They go to work in the Statehouse and in their respective state offices across Kansas to tackle difficult problems, trying to accomplish good things for all of us.

Too often our state government has failed to communicate and coordinate with our federal or local partners.

If a federal program works for Kansans, we need a Governor who will adopt that program regardless of the party ideology dividing the Governor and President. If the state implements new tax policy, we cannot put it in place without considering the impact on local units of government. Our cities and counties are the front door for most Kansans’ interaction with government, and much of the state tax policy enacted over the last seven years has left cities and counties with far less money to handle greater demands on their services. For example, Meals on Wheels is an important program that gives warm meals and human contact to elderly across the state, and has been on life support because of the substantial drop in finances statewide. Cities and counties need to know they have a partner at the statehouse that will not silently shift burdens to the local level in an effort to balance the state budget. For Kansans, the end result is often higher property taxes which is a burden on everyone.

Thousands of Kansans who are forgotten or abandoned deserve to know the state cares about their lives.

Poverty that crushes dreams falls most heavily on our youngest children. We must make a renewed commitment to a compassionate response that addresses economic inequality.

The unique needs of persons with disabilities require our careful consideration in every program and policy that we as a state adopt. Their voices must be included, along with the voices of their families, in the public discussion of their needs.

Older Kansans too often become isolated as their families leave their neighborhoods and rural communities behind searching for jobs. We must renew our efforts to ensure older Kansans are not forgotten.

Critical health problems which fall most heavily on poor and minority communities must be resolved to support every qualified Kansan.

Together we must see our own future in the eyes of our disenfranchised neighbors. We need to serve them with care and hold ourselves accountable for the quality of our responses.

Children assigned by the courts to the care of the state should not be forgotten. We must establish a moral compact so that every child receives the best we can provide to mend their troubled lives.

The right to Be safe and secure in your community

We need to establish laws to end the plague of gun violence.

So far in 2018, there has been more than one report each week of shots fired in our schools. The most recent horror in Florida has finally awakened us to demand that action must replace the indifference of our political system. As the father of young children, a former elected official and as a candidate for Governor, I am tired of walking on eggshells around the special interest groups for whom inaction has been the preferred course. It is long past time we have a serious conversation about gun policy in this country. 

We need universal background checks. We need to ban 30-round clips, and any devices that convert rifles into weapons of mass killing. 

I recognize the constitutional right to own and collect guns, and it is generally accepted that some choose to own guns for sporting purposes or for personal protection. But when we begin to see guns as a solution to our problems or think the proliferation of guns can somehow make us safer, we defy what we know to be true.

Our faith community needs to lead in their venues to remind us all that we should beat our swords into plowshares; that we should practice and strive to find ways to live in peace together, and that we should treat our neighbors as ourselves. 

The vast majority of our people are peace loving and non-violent. Our political leaders need to finally, and for all times, establish laws to end the plague of gun violence in our state and our nation. 

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Joshua Svaty for Governor

(785) 783-2340
PO Box 4745
Topeka, Kansas 66604

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