Rep. Ken King is keynote speaker at Chamber Breakfastwebmaster March 12, 2020 0 COMMENTS
BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent
House Representative Ken King, who recently spoke at the annual Muleshoe Chamber Breakfast, is currently serving his fourth term as State Representative for House District 88.
King is running unopposed in the upcoming election. His district includes 17 counties in the Panhandle and the South Plains of Texas, including Bailey County. He currently serves on the House Public Education committee, the Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee and the Energy Council.
“I look forward to being your state representative again,” King said. “We’ve got a lot going on in next session that is truly going to be vital to rural Texas. It’s important to know what’s going on right now after the 86th Legislative Session in order to tell you where we’re going in the 87th.”
The 86th Legislative Session began Jan. 8, 2019, and ended May 27, 2019. The 87th Legislative Session is scheduled to start Jan. 12, 2021, and end May 31, 2021.
“The Constitution requires us to pass the budget in 140 days every two years, and we did that,” King said. “The $51 billion budget was the largest Texas has ever had. It was up from $16.5 the session before.”
King said there were a number of reasons the budget was so high, but the main reason was that the Gulf Coast needed to be rebuilt following Hurricane Harvey.
“The great thing is, we didn’t go into any debt,” King said. “Texas is still a balanced budget state. We did the things we had to, and we didn’t go into any debt.”
Besides balancing the budget, King said the only other thing the state requires the Legislature to do is to pay for free public education. He pointed out that in urban centers, property taxes are going up exponentially, and as property taxes rise, the percent going to public education is going down.
King said the Legislature put $11.5 billion into public education. Five billion of that was divided into property tax value, $6.5 billion went into classrooms and $2 billion went into teachers’ salaries.
“We made our teacher retirement system actuarially sound for the first time ever,” King said. “We invested heavily in early childhood education, primarily Pre-K through 3. The biggest bang for your educational dollars happens in the early years. If a child is not reading on grade level by grade 3, they’re very unlikely to catch up. Ever.”
King said $220 million was spent on mental health on the heels of the Santa Fe School shooting.
“We can address this in one of two ways,” he said. “We can buy metal detectors; we can pay armed guards and put police forces in our schools. Or we can invest in our counselors and mental health professionals so that we can identify these children and their troubles. And that’s the way we went.”
King said that he plays a fairly large role in the public education bill and that 38 recommendations were made regarding Texas school finance.
“Your representative or elected official better care what we’re spending on education,” King said. “Seventy percent of our budget gets spent on education. That’s where all your tax money’s going for the most part. I know this is one thing we need to take care of, particularly out here in Bailey County where we tend to get left behind.”
He said that half of the counties in District 88 produce oil and gas, but they are all agricultural counties.
“House Bill 3070, came out of the northeastern Panhandle after the fires of 2017,” King said. “We lost about a million acres to wildfires.”
He explained that a volunteer fire department is paid for in two ways, through local tax dollars and through a 2604 Grant, managed by local Agrilife Extension agencies, which manage Texas Forestry Service.
“The problem with the 2604 Grant was that it would not pay for personal protective equipment – it wouldn’t buy bunker gear. It wouldn’t buy extractor machines to wash the bunker gear. The No. 1 cause of damage to Texas firefighters is cancer.
“Basically, if you have one firefighting suit, and you have three fires in a week, if they don’t get a chance to wash it, the carcinogens leach into their skin. Today the 2604 grant will pay for personal protective equipment.”
Also, the grant would buy a new fire truck for $150,000 fire truck, but it wouldn’t pay for repairing a fire truck.
“So if the truck needs a $5,000 transmission, it wouldn’t pay for it,” King said. “So, the department might wait 10 years to get a truck that needed a repair.
“Today, the grant will pay for repairs, but I think the most important change we made to the program was that any county declared a disaster that loses equipment moves to the head of the line. If you’re sent over to another county to fight a fire, even though it wasn’t your county that had the trouble, you could still apply to have your equipment.”
King mentioned changes to Melissa’s Law as an example of government officials working together. The law raised the punishment for sexual assault committed by relatives.
The upcoming Legislative Session will take place after the 2020 Census is taken. Every 10 years the state is required to re-district based on population.
King said west of I-35 is in trouble. District 88 has declined almost 18 percent in the last 10 years.
“It’s going to be a pretty good fight to save rural Texas,” King said.
He emphasized that re-districting to keep representation in rural Texas would be his priority in the upcoming session, saying that Muleshoe citizens shouldn’t have to go to Lubbock to see their state representative.
“If Republicans are in power, we get to draw the map,” King said. “If Democrats take over, they get to draw the map. If get a chance to go to Lubbock, testify and tell them how important it is that you know your representative. The more you stay in contact with me and make your voice known, the more leadership you have in this state, the easier it is.”
To contact King by email, go to https://house.texas.gov/members/member-page/?district=88 and click on email, or you can phone his Capitol office at 512-463-0736 or his district office at 806-323-8870. His campaign website is kingfortexas.com.