Keen Umbehr/Josh Umbehr (L) — Governor, Lt. Governor

Biographical Information: 

  • Born in Great Bend, Kansas on November 8, 1958 (55 years old)
  • My wife, Eileen, and I have been entrepreneurs, having owned and operated 4 businesses in Alma, Kansas: Solid Waste Systems (1981-1999 Owner/operator of trash collection company for Wabaunsee County), Sparkley’s Car Wash (1981-2001 Owner/operator of two-bay self-service car wash), Back Porch Restaurant (1988-1990 Owner/operator of soda fountain style restaurant), and Flint Hills Development, Inc. (1993-1995 Vice-President)
  • 1987-1993 Councilman, City of Alma
  • 1989-1993 Board Member of Mill Creek Valley USD #329
  • 1996 Board of Wabaunsee County Commissioners, Wabaunsee County, Kansas vs. Keen A. Umbehr, 518 U.S. 668 (1996): The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Umbehr’s favor, setting a national precedent that private contractors have the same First Amendment rights as government employees (Justices Scalia and Thomas dissenting)
  • 1997 President of Kansas Solid Waste Association
  • 2001 Bachelor of Science in Political Science; Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
  • 2005 Juris Doctor; Washburn University School of Law, Topeka, Kansas
  • 2005 – Present; Attorney, Alma, Kansas

Personal Information:

I met my wife, Eileen, while attending high school in Singapore. Eileen and I have been married 36 years and raised four sons: Jared -U.S. Navy, stationed in Mississippi; Josh, medical doctor located in Wichita, Kansas; Keen II -Director of Business Development for NISSCO, Leawood, Kansas; and Kirk Van, Food and Beverage Director for Hallbrook Country Club, Kansas City, Kansas. We also have three daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren.

My son, Dr. Josh Umbehr, Founder and CEO of AtlasMD in Wichita, is my Lt. Governor.

Campaign Website: Keen for Kansas

Do you feel the 2014 Legislature’s school finance bill was adequate? What would you support in a new funding bill?

First, I believe that every Kansas student deserves the best education possible. However, that being said, currently the FY 2015 state budget sets education spending at 63.2% or 3.976 billion of the State General Fund budget for education. I would ask: how much is enough?  I believe there is a limit to how much of the state budget can be allocated for education. The state has many other equally-important prioritise that must be funded with our limited state resources.

Secondly, as an attorney, I believe the 2014 Legislature set a dangerous precedent when it allowed the Judicial Branch to coerce legislative increases in school funding. The Legislature has the constitutional authority to pass laws and enactments; the Judiciary’s role is limited to determining the constitutionality of the laws passed by the Legislature. The 2014 Legislature relinquished some of its constitutional authority when it bowed to the pressure exerted on it by the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court via the school district finance decision. I believe that the Legislature alone has the authority to determine the proper amount of school funding, not the Judiciary.

Thirdly, the adequacy of school funding is based on the supposition that all students should achieve equality in educational outcomes. This is a fallacy. Student educational outcomes are affected by a whole range of factors, some of which will not be impacted by additional funding.

At this time, I do not support additional funding for schools. School district funding must coexist with other demands on the state’s budgetary responsibilities.  There are certain economic realities that must be accepted – the first of which is that the economy in Kansas is stagnant, and the national economic forecast indicates low to moderate growth. Increases in school funding must be tied to the health of our state’s domestic growth performance. There can be no “sacred” budgetary priorities.

On the other hand, I do support the principle that the federal and state aid (approximately $12,600) should follow the student, and not the building. Kansas families should be able to choose the form of education which best suits their child’s  needs, whether it be a public, private, parochial, and military or home school.

How do you plan to grow the Kansas economy in the next four years?

While it is always a positive thing for new corporations to relocate to our state, the economy in Kansas will grow most vigorously from the inside out. However, measurable and sustained economic growth will only transpire when the government stops placing needless, regulatory roadblocks on current and developing businesses in Kansas.

What specific state issue do you think deserves your immediate attention and how to you plan to address it?

In 2012, the Legislature and governor passed an income tax plan which eliminated state income tax for 191,000 business owners in Kansas, and forced the remaining 1.3 million W-2 wage earners to pay the state’s entire income tax burden.

Republicans, Democrats, Independents/Unaffiliated and Libertarians alike believe that this new tax plan is discriminatory, inequitable and denies them and their families’ equal protection under the law.

Said another way, the current income tax law takes approximately 2.2 billion dollars out of the paychecks of the 1.3 million individual wage earners, but not a single dime from the 191,000 business owners. No reasonable person believes this current income tax law is fair or reasonable. There are 1.3 million Kansas wage earners who are highly motivated to elect a governor that will rectify this injustice.

In 2015, the Kansas Legislature must correct the current income tax bill by statutorily granting the 1.3 million W-2 wage earner a zero income tax rate. This will require the next governor to make the difficult decision to cut state expenditures to meet available revenue. As governor, it is my intention to work toward a more lean and efficient state government. If the Legislature sends me a bill which corrects this discriminatory tax plan, I would sign the bill providing that it arrives on my desk as a stand-alone, unbundled bill, pursuant to Section 2, Article 16 of the Kansas Constitution (the constitutional provision prohibiting the bundling of bills).

In the alternative, the Kansas Legislature could remedy the inequitable tax plan by passing the Kansas FairTax bill known as HB 2625. This bill is a consumption tax which would eliminate individual income tax for all Kansas citizens, eliminate income tax for corporations and financial institutions, as well as repeal retail sales tax, the State’s 4 mills of property tax, and compensating use taxes. HB 2625 has set the consumption tax rate at 5.7% on all new goods and services. Basically, the more new goods and services a person buys, the more tax that individual pays. It is “fair” in the sense that all Kansas citizens would pay the same 5.7% consumption tax rate regardless of the amount of income they earn.

While the current text of HB 2625 contains numerous consumption tax exemptions which I don’t agree with, the revenue generated by the FairTax Plan would provide the revenue necessary to fully fund the FY 2015 budget.

The prosperity which all Kansans deserve starts with a fair and equitable income tax plan, and a governor with the leadership and commitment to apply all laws equally to all citizens, all the time.

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