Kansas: State of denial?
What is the state of the state in Kansas?
In his recent State of the State Address, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, said the state of the state is strong.
How can the state of Kansas be strong, however, if it currently has a state budget deficit of at least $175 million and that deficit is expected to grow to $195 million over the next 18 months?
Gov. Brownback, interestingly enough, did not mention the state budget deficit in his address.
How can the state of Kansas be strong if the Legislature was forced to transfer more than $1 billion from the State Department of Transportation last year?
How can the state of Kansas be strong if the Legislature was forced to scrap the state’s public school funding formula last year?
How can the state of Kansas be strong if our universities, such as Washburn, are being forced to offer early retirement plans to long-term faculty members because state aid has been cut to the bone each of the past three years and there is no where else left to cut university expenses?
Public schools and roads are two of the state government’s primary funding responsibilities and the state appears not to be in solid financial condition to adequately fund either one of these responsibilities.
A lawsuit pending before the Kansas Supreme Court argues that the state financing of public education is so bad that it’s unconstitutional. And thus explains the effort from Gov. Brownback to change the way that the state selects its Supreme Court judges. If you can’t convince them, replace them.
Last year, the State Legislature attempted to put a plug in the state budget dike by raising the statewide sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. The biggest end result was higher food prices for Kansans least able to afford it.
The state of state government before Gov. Brownback five years ago was not great either, in all fairness, but like surrounding states at the time Kansas was starting to rebound economically.
Alas, we Kansans have no one else to blame for the state of our state government than ourselves. Let the last five years be a lesson in how we should take voting more seriously.
If we want someone to support public education in the state, we just can’t rely on lip service. We need to see a proven track record of real support for adequately supporting public schools. Candidates who home school their own kids need say no more.
The same logic goes for good roads and highways and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Our state can and will do better but unfortunately no time soon.