Kansas outside of the big cities is going through some difficult changes. It is becoming more and more difficult to attract young people, and population shifts are hurting long standing communities. But the truth is rural Kansas has some incredible strengths. We must support those to ensure that the rest of Kansas continues to offer an incredible quality of life and remain an amazing place to raise a family.
In the Senate I will work to ensure that the institutions critical to rural Kansas are supported. We must design economic development strategies that play to the community's strengths.
It starts with my promise to work with both parties to continue the long tradition of support for a Farm Bill that keeps our agricultural economy strong, and goes on to ensure access to capital, access to cheap, abundant and renewable Kansas-produced wind energy and access to a strong rural health system.
My plan will:
Take one look around Kansas and you will see our roots in the soil run deep and strong. I want to go to Washington to fight to preserve that great tradition.
The gridlock in Washington is having a significant negative impact on Kansas farmers. In 2011, Standard & Poor's lowered the credit rating for the United States. It commented that the political games played by both parties in Washington made our ability to manage our finances "less stable, less effective, and less predictable." Our failure to get our act together as a country and start working toward solving our problems has reduced confidence in the American economy and is hurting Kansas.
For decades the farm bill was a piece of legislation that both sides could get behind. Every time the bill came up for reauthorization, both sides would push for tweaks and then easily pass the final legislation. That’s not what happened last time, and the result was that Kansas farmers were left with massive uncertainty. In the Senate, I will work with both parties to continue the long tradition of strong support for our farm bill. In the United States Senate, I would be an advocate for federal crop insurance to guarantee that our farmers have a way to protect against the risks of an increasingly unpredictable environment.
The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program and its support of Critical Access Hospitals saves lives and helps Kansans all over the state have access to care. In the Senate I will work to strengthen both of these programs. I supported the recent decision to allow veterans not receiving proper care at the VA to have access to these facilities, thus ensuring proper care and expanding support for these hospitals. As funding constraints reemerge for the VA in the future, we must be vigilant and ensure veterans continue to receive the care they need and that these hospitals are supported.
The recently passed Health Care Compact could threaten these facilities and Medicare coverage for our seniors. I will oppose federal legislation authorizing the Compact and I will fight to protect Medicare for our seniors. We need to reform healthcare delivery in this country, not privatize Medicare.
Today Kansas gets more than 11% of its energy from renewable sources and more than 475 additional megawatts of wind power are being constructed and coming online in the near future. As this industry has taken off in Kansas, it has also become one of the cheapest forms of energy and allows us to move towards ending our dependence on foreign oil as more and more electric vehicles become part of our fleet mix. In fact prices are so low, yet profitable, that the Wichita Eagle recently reported, “…there will be a market for wind energy even when projects no longer qualify for the production tax credit after 2016.”
This support for wind has helped our economy with cheap energy, helped our foreign policy and domestic security by keeping our dollars at home, and helped the environment. As this technology moves forward, the next step is developing large scale storage technologies that allow us to use wind energy in a more reliable fashion.
Too often those in Washington present a false chose, saying we have to choose between economic growth and a good environment. Both sides have dug in and don’t believe there’s any basis for cooperation but wind energy is an example of a program that really does allow us to create jobs and protect the environment.
I know that we can do both, and I have proven it in the private sector. At my first company, Environmental Lighting Concepts, we designed and installed energy efficient lighting systems for commercial and industrial buildings. Our company created jobs, helped the environment, and made money for our customers. We used the opportunity to cut energy costs and ultimately made helping the environment become a good business decision. And I think there are a lot more of those good business decisions out there that we need to work with industry on.
It has taken years, and there is still more work to do, but broadband is finally starting to penetrate into Western Kansas. Yet just as we are making progress the technology is about to leap ahead again, with fiber already making a big impact in the Kansas City area. We must ensure that the rest of Kansas doesn’t have to wait twenty years for this important technology to be installed. We can speed up this process by ensuring we have the right regulatory framework to encourage the growth of fiber on both the state and federal level.
While direct to consumer fiber is going to take a while to be a possibility, we should ensure that fiber is at least wired to each community so that we can create the same kind of incubation spaces we have in Kansas City in the rest of Kansas, creating regional fiber hubs. At the same time we must ensure that the government doesn’t come in and distort existing market places for the technology.
As I’ve travelled the state, I’ve frequently had the privilege of talking to groups of small business owners and farmers in rural communities. I’ve had the opportunity to hear about both the exciting new projects they’re undertaking, and the very real needs they face. Small business owners in our rural communities need not only a friendlier policy environment, but also the direct support and advocacy of our leaders.
As someone who’s helped dozens of small businesses grow and develop, I’d hope to use my background in economic development to help support communities around the state, by working as an economic development ambassador to help connect small businesses and communities with the resources and support they need to grow. I would see it as part of my job to help identify a community’s strongest attributes, and to work with local economic development agencies on strategies to attract businesses and capital to the community, as I have done for most of my adult life. As I’ve travelled the state during this campaign, I’ve already had opportunities to make some of these connections, and I’d hope to have more chances to help our state grow and to support our rural economies and entrepreneurs.
Having attended the 3i convention and talked to farmers and leaders throughout the state, it’s clear to me that farmers are natural innovators. No problem seems too large for the creativity of a farmer to solve. Bringing private sector capital to these ideas could lead to an economic boom in our agricultural communities. As a United States Senator, I would also make it my personal mission to help the agricultural community capitalize on the innovation they demonstrate daily.
A few weeks ago I released my plan for small business. The plan would help ensure small businesses have access to capital and reduce the number of government regulations and inspections that small businesses must deal with. This plan will be especially helpful for farmers and other Kansans who live and work outside of the largest cities. Capital is especially difficult to get in many of these places and by fixing Dodd-Frank we can ensure that business people can still have a personal relationship with their local banker instead of a larger out of state bank. The program will also streamline existing small business support programs and force the SBA to work with other agencies to create a one stop shop website for small business owners.
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