Rep. Ken Collins ready to cut state budget as part of virus response

Republican candidate owns a convenience store in Mulberry. He opposes Medicaid expansion.

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October 20, 2020 - 10:25 AM

In his bid for re-election, state Rep. Ken Collins, R-Mulberry, said he’s prepared to cut the state budget in an effort to make up for revenue losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll have to make some cuts,” he said Monday. “Of course, everybody thinks it should come from somebody else’s budget.”

Collins owns a convenience store in Mulberry, a town of about 500 that straddles the Kansas-Missouri line in eastern Crawford County. 

He’s had the store for only about one-and-a-half years. When the legislature is in session, he locks up shop. 

“I don’t have a staff per se to keep it going elsewise,” he said.

Collins said he admires the efforts of Regena and Loren Lance who run the Mildred Store. 

“That’s my aspiration,” he said.

Collins defeated former Rep. Adam Lusker, D-Frontenac, in 2018, to win his first term in the Kansas House.

He is facing Lynn Grant of Frontenac on the Nov. 3 ballot. Read her story here.

As a store owner, Collins said his business has bucked the trend and somewhat benefited from the effects of the pandemic.

“Normally, people go across to Pittsburg for items, and are surprised at all the things I carry,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll stop in for a thing or two, and leave with quite a bit more.”

Collins said he posts a sign requesting patrons wear face masks before they enter. 

“By now, everybody knows somebody who’s had the virus,” he said. “I wear a mask when anyone comes in the store, and would hope they would do the same for me.”

Collins said he has held Allen County in high regard for the relatively low number of COVID-19 cases. “You have been our role model,” he said.

DESPITE the increase in the number of unemployed and those who have lost their health insurance due to the pandemic, Collins is not in favor of expanding Medicaid.

Instead of relying on the federal government, Collins favors private organizations and associations forming their own health insurance plans. He highlighted the plan offered by Kansas Farm Bureau as an example. Collins voted for the plan in 2019. As such, it is exempt from adhering to the federal Affordable Care Act. Its main drawback is that it is not required to provide health insurance to those with preexisting conditions such as diabetes or congestive heart failures, and it can reject applicants altogether if they aren’t considered healthy enough.

Collins said that if more Kansans were eligible for health insurance through Medicaid expansion, “you’d still have the same number of doctors and hospitals and they would be overwhelmed with the increased patient load.”

Collins also said he was skeptical of reports that expanding Medicaid would help an estimated 150,000 Kansans, implying that they have other means of accessing healthcare coverage, but did not elaborate.

He also recalled that over the course of his career he has had to carefully weigh changing jobs because of a pre-existing health condition and the necessary balance of temporarily losing his health insurance.

“That’s just the landscape of healthcare,” he said. 

COLLINS is retired from AT&T and military service, which included four years in the Air Force followed by six years in the Army National Guard. 

District 2 includes the eastern portion of Allen County, including the towns of Mildred, Moran, Elsmore and Savonburg.

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