Doll shares concerns about legislative issues

3/4/2013

State rep. discusses corporate farming, budget, other bills.

State rep. discusses corporate farming, budget, other bills.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

State Rep. John Doll kept local people in the legislative loop Saturday morning during his weekly town hall meeting, held at Patrick Dugan's Coffee House, where he discussed corporate farming, the state budget, military education credits, transportation and a proposed machinery and equipment bill.

Doll said that there is currently a push for corporate farming.

"Something that scares me to death, and I just want to get feedback from you guys on this, is corporate farming. There's a huge push for that, I mean huge. I don't know if it can be stopped. I, personally, am very concerned with corporate farming," Doll said. "I think it's a threat to the way of life for a lot of farmers."

"One of the things we have out here, we're special. And some things we have to do might not make as much economic sense for us, but it's going to keep our place special," he said. "What's your way of life worth to you? Do you want to sell that out?"

He said that smaller farm operations, at some point, could become a thing of the past, but that farmers have been aware for some time that in order to survive, they would need to, "Get large, get specialized, or get out." But he doesn't want to see big business force the issue.

"'It's kind of like Rockefeller back in the 1900s, because to me, it's encouraging monopolies. You get monopolies and then they control the price," he said.

Doll also discussed the state budget.

"Someone raised this question (to Gov. Sam Brownback in Topeka), 'It's harmful that we're trying to do this with the income tax. Can we slow it down? Can we hold the line for at least another year or two until this budget thing, until all this new development that's coming in, comes in, so we can start reaping the benefits of some of that, before we start cutting income tax?' And they weren't interested in that at all," Doll said. "I am so far away from being a financial whiz, but I look at these numbers and I just don't see how we're going to make them match. I think social services are going to get butchered ... I'm personally concerned about how we're going to make this budget work."

Doll said he voted for a bill, which was passed, that allows veterans to obtain college credit for technical skills they developed overseas.

"Although I'm not a veteran, I'm all about the veterans. And we passed a bill that, let's say a person was stationed in Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan and he was a mechanic, the skills he learned there will apply to his school when he gets here. So if he has to go to a trade school, his time will be cut dramatically because he'll just take kind of a quick test and he'll be able to do that for free," he said, adding that the same is true for nursing and other types of technical fields.

Doll said he thinks that a proposal to merge the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) will result in only a subtle impact on western Kansas.

"And what they want to do is KDOT wants to take that over, and when it does, it gives them $30 million over two years, $15 million a year," he said, adding that there is a lot of excess ground that KDOT would sell.

"The governor has a really aggressive budget, and in order to make this budget work, he's got to find money wherever he can find it. And the mortgage rate deduction doesn't look like it's going to make it, the property tax deduction probably isn't going to make it, so if it's not nailed down, he's coming and getting it. So that's $30 million, $15 million (per year) more he can put (elsewhere)," Doll said.

In terms of transportation, Doll said that there is a need for better highways in western Kansas.

"Out here, we need highways. If we're going to be aggressive with this wind situation, if we're going to be aggressive with more trucking, we need more four-lanes, we need more passing lanes. If you don't have the infrastructure, I don't know how you can grow your economy and that is a big concern to me," he said.

He also spoke about his opposition to an equipment and machinery bill.

"This one hasn't reached us yet, but I think it would be devastating to southwest Kansas," Doll said, adding that it would result in taxation of anything that's used to move grain, leaving silos and other stationary types of structures, exempt.

City Manager Matt Allen said he understood it differently, however.

"I understand it to be the opposite, but maybe I didn't hear you correctly. The way I understood it is that the silo itself would be real property and be taxed and the equipment would be exempt, so I would suspect the tanks and permanent infrastructure would be real property, taxable property," Allen said.

Doll said he plans to oppose the bill, regardless.

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