Republican gubernatorial candidate Wink Hartman stopped in Garden City on Thursday as part of a tour spanning 12 stops around Kansas over four days.
The tour began in Wichita Tuesday and is slated to reach “every corner of the state- from Olathe to Colby and Garden City to Parsons,” according to a release from his campaign. The tour will also include private meetings with job creators, community leaders and elected officials.
Hartman’s Garden City stop included a role as a guest host during a Miles of Smiles charity event at The Golf Club at Southwind, as well as a visit to The Telegram offices, where he articulated his hopes to “fix Topeka.”
Hartman is a fifth-generation Kansan born and raised, educated in the Wichita public school system and a Wichita State University graduate with degrees in marketing and economics.
Today, he oversees a plentitude of companies including Hartman Oil Co. Inc., which has a store in Garden City. His oil operation consists of a production outfit in Great Bend complete with a companion trucking organization. Hartman also owns Vintage Bank Kansas and its seven locations. A restaurateur, he oversees Chester’s Chophouse in Wichita, as well as the breakfast and lunch chain Jimmy’s Egg.
At 71, Hartman has five children with his wife, Libba, and eight grandchildren. When asked why he wants to be the governor, Hartman offered the future of his family as a premiere rationale.
“In my opinion, Kansas is a little bit off-track presently, and I’d like to be able to see my children — who all live in Kansas — I’d like to see them be able to raise their kids here, get them educated and live out their dreams,” he said. “So it’s all giving back. I’ve had some pretty good luck in Kansas.”
Hartman said the Legislature has implemented policies in recent years that are “detrimental to our future.” He offered his experience as a CEO and political outsider as an answer to the state's cash-strapped state’s problems.
“I think fresh ideas bring fresh solutions, and I think I can provide the skills to do just that,” he said.
When asked about the tax policies of Gov. Sam Brownback that in April were set to put Kansas $900 million in the red for the next two years, Hartman said that while the strategy itself was not bad, but the execution failed.
“We put in a tax policy to reduce taxes on the hardworking families of this state, the working poor, but then we turned right around and continued to spend money at a record pace and increased spending,” Hartman said. “You can’t reduce revenues and increase spending. That just isn’t going to work, and therefore, everybody feels like the tax policy failed when it really did not fail. What failed was the continual spending and wasteful spending at that.”
Hartman said the consensus among the 55 cities he has visited is that education is the top priority.
For him, the money he amounted to $293 million allocated by the state for public education over the next two years is “sadly going to be wasted and not going to provide a better education for children.”
Though the budget passed by the Legislature allocates $488 million to public education over the next two years, Hartman said any money given over to the school system will be “absorbed as it has in the past under that umbrella of management.”
“Additional money has proven in the past it is not educating our children,” he said, explaining that he wants to see school funding funneled directly into the classroom. “My major concern is that money will not trickle down to the students. It will be absorbed into new football stadiums, new buildings, increases for superintendents, other expenses, and it will never really benefit the kids.”
Hartman said the Legislature needs a “strong leader, somebody that will stand at the front of the line, use the bully pulpit and get the job done through strong leadership.”
“We have splintering instead of cohesiveness,” he said. “So the first thing you need to do is be inclusive. You’ve got to get those people in there and at least sit down and be transparent and let them know what you expect. That’s step one.”
Hartman said he first considered running “five to six years” ago when “my wife got tired of me yelling at the television.”
Noting that the state’s middle class is shrinking, Hartman explained that the Legislature’s recent tax bill that puts the highest tax bracket at $60,001 and up with an income tax rate of 5.2 percent in 2017 and 5.7 percent in 2018 is unfair. Hartman said he finds it “kind of sad” that Kansans making more than $60,000 will pay more in taxes than people in Massachusetts, where all residents pay a flat rate of 5.1 percent.
Job creation and retention are also top priorities for Hartman, who says he has created “thousands of jobs in Kansas, so I have an inkling of what it takes to be creative with the ideas that create jobs.”
Part of that strategy would include reducing regulation on business, namely permitting — and specifically, construction permitting — that he says would make it easier to hire specialized workers. Hartman also said he is a “big fan” of vocational-technical schools, such as one in Salina.
Contact Mark Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org