By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State Treasurer candidate Tyson stops in GB
Caryn Tyson speaks
State Treasurer candidate Caryn Tyson, left, speaks to the audience during her meet-and-greet at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. Also pictured is Barton County Commissioner Barb Esfeld. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce hosted an informal meet-and-greet Friday morning with State Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker), who is running for the office of State Treasurer.

Tyson, a software engineer from Linn County, has served as a state legislator for 11 years. She served one term in the House before being elected to the Senate in District 12 in 2013, where she currently serves.

The Republican will face state Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Assaria) and Sara Hart Wier, a CEO from Overland Park, in the primary in August. The winner will face incumbent Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the general election in November. 

Friday morning’s meet-and-greet was attended by several local officials including Barton County commissioners Barb Esfeld and Shawn Hutchinson, City Council member Davis Jimenez, as well as Chamber of Commerce President Megan Barfield.

Tyson described herself as a “grassroots” candidate. Her husband, Tim, is a fifth-generation Kansas rancher. Tyson was born in Norton, raised in the Cloud County community of Glasco, and has lived in various places across the state.

Tyson told the audience she initially resisted the idea of running for treasurer. However, at the encouragement of her husband, she took a deeper look at the position and felt her experience as both a software engineer and a state legislator gave the background she needed to make a difference in the position.

“We can make so many improvements in this office and what we do, and what we do with Kansas, and I’m absolutely all in,” Tyson said.

Among her goals as a state treasurer, she said, would be the transparency and accountability of the state budget for Kansas taxpayers. Currently what’s available to the public, she said, is difficult to access in a timely manner and covers only surface-level expenditures.

“With a multi-billion dollar budget, it would be nice to know where that money’s going and what’s being spent on those projects,” Tyson said. As treasurer, she would want to oversee improvements to the state’s website that would allow taxpayers deeper access to the state’s budget and expenditures. Her experience as a software engineer helps her understanding of the process of improving that website’s functionality, she said.

“With Kansas, I want to open up the checkbook, so you can just click on it and you can see where the money’s going,” Tyson said.

She sees increased budget transparency is a way to rein in wasteful government spending. Right now, she said, “the fox is in the henhouse,” with budget audits being overseen by officials in the governor’s administration, rather than by an independent auditor. 

The money belongs to Kansans, she said, and right now the state is not doing an adequate job of educating citizens about the money and resources that are available to them. She cited small business and agricultural loan programs available through the state as examples of this.

Lack of transparency, she said, was a significant factor in the state’s failure in addressing a faulty unemployment management system over the course of several years. Though the official audit has not come in, she said initial estimates are that the failure cost the state $700 million in fraudulent claims. Increased accountability and leadership failures over several administrations would have stopped the problem sooner.

She also noted the state treasurer sits on the board for Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, and in that role, she would work toward moving the fund away from foreign investments in countries such as China and Russia.

As a software engineer, she is also certified as a project manager, and said she would bring that management and problem solving experience to the office.

“When you’re solving a problem, you have to look at the big picture, not just what’s in front of you,” she said.

Much of the discussion in the meet-and-greet centered around tax transparency, in particular Senate Bill 13, the “Truth in Taxation” bill, in response to questions from Hutchinson. As a senator, Tyson led efforts to pass the bill, and Hutchinson had questions about how the bill impacted economic development efforts in the city and county. Remaining “revenue-neutral” he said, could hamper those efforts.

“What we’re trying to do is grow our community, and we want more taxpayers, not more taxes,” Hutchinson said. “If we can expand our community (by drawing people and businesses), that’s going to require more services. We’re already operating lean, so if we’re going to expand our community, we’re going to need more money for those.”

In response, she noted a common misunderstanding of the bill is that entities cannot collect more taxes. Instead, she said, the goal of the bill was for entities to be more transparent about how much property tax they collect, and if they collect more, why they need to do so.

She said the system the bill put in place has worked for several states for several decades, and part of the challenge is the change in practice for local government entities.

Hutchinson also questioned the state’s transparency about the source of the current $3 billion budget and how much of it centered on Kansans being overtaxed by the state.

Tyson responded by saying as a senator, she has opposed past efforts to increase sales taxes in the state. 

She has also advocated for increased transparency in how the surplus was spent. She has requested a legislative post audit on the $100 million in Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) Grant funds made available through the Kansas Department of Commerce from federal COVID-19 aid funds issued to the state.