The Mercury asked candidates in the 51st District House race to respond to four questions designed to compare and contrast their views on various aspects of state government policy. The candidates are Republican Ron Highland and Richard Pikul, a Democrat. Here is a synopsized version of their replies.
1. Characterize yourself in terms of fiscal policy and tell me how that approach will influence your votes on fiscal matters. How do you feel you differ from your opponent?
Pikul: My father died when I was in the ninth grade. My mother had to raise two children on her own. We were not on public assistance but we did have Social Security Survivor Benefits. My mother worked two jobs. I worked part-time as soon as I could get my working papers. Prior to getting my working papers, I did odd jobs. I learned how hard it was to earn a dollar. I have been a partner in both a large and small engineering firm and have been self-employed as the Owner of Pikul Engineering for 16 years. I know what it is like to have to collect fees and negotiate to survive as a small business.
This experience has made me a fiscal conservative. I know Kansas needs to raise revenue to provide necessary services to promote the education, safety, health and welfare of all Kansans. However, I do not like to see my tax dollars wasted or squandered. I want Kansas to negotiate to get the best deal for its money. This background will make me a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and property.
I do not know the family financial history of my opponent. I expect we both agree that we do not want our taxpayer dollars wasted. I want to provide necessary services in an economical manner and increase revenue as needed to meet those needs. I believe my opponent would decrease services before increasing revenue.
Highland: We are currently living in a very unique and difficult time with the mounting federal debt. Both the recession and drought are placing hardships on Kansans. I believe that small businesses provide the majority of jobs and are the engine that fuels the economy, thus lifting the regulatory and tax burdens will help to restore the economy. Just as businesses have become more efficient with technology, so should our government agencies continue to look for ways to streamline. Accountability by all involved is needed.
(Highland said he could not characterize his opponent’s position on the question.)
2. Characterize yourself in terms of social policy and tell me how that approach will influence your votes on social policy matters. How do you feel you differ from your opponent?
Pikul: When I was in second grade in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural area, I was given a wooden ruler inscribed with the “golden rule” that I have paraphrased as “treat others as you would like to have then treat you”. This greatly affected my thinking regarding social issues. In addition, I have realized that life is unpredictable and one can quickly go from “riches to rags”. When I become aware of cases of illness, joblessness, criminal victimization, hopelessness and poverty in others, I think, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.
Because of the advice and assistance of an untold number of individuals I obtained a first class education and feel that I have been successful and blessed. My family has been fortunate as regards health, education, crime and financial issues. Some of the most generous people I have met have been those with the least to give.
I believe the people of the State of Kansas have an obligation to assist the less fortunate and that this should be most efficiently and consistently done at the state level with additional support provided by volunteer organizations. The goal should be to provide assistance until a person or family can fully manage on their own. This means we need to have available: jobs that pay a living wage regardless of training, education and
experience; affordable higher education opportunities to obtain higher paying jobs; basic courses on personal finances and healthy living; and affordable health care.
Abusers of social programs need to identified and removed from them because they are unfairly using resources that are needed for legitimate clients.
I want to provide necessary social services in an economical manner and increase revenue as needed to meet those needs. I believe my opponent would decrease services before increasing revenue.
Highland: I am a Christian and strive to live by the teachings of my faith. I believe that each individual must take responsibility for their actions in life.