Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money in cash reserves for state agencies, universities and school districts. The story has been updated with the correct information.
More than a dozen Sedgwick County legislators got a clear message from attendees at a Tuesday night forum at the Sedgwick County Courthouse: Don't raise taxes.
About 50 people attended the meeting, and many brought their usual complaints about abortion laws and the state's record in removing children from their homes.
But with the state facing what Rep. Melody McCray-Miller described as an "unbelievable budget challenge," several speakers asked legislators to remember that Kansas residents, too, were having trouble making ends meet.
Among those addressing the issue was Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute.
He said his group's research found that Kansas agencies collectively held $800 million in cash reserves —"more than enough cash reserves to get us through the crisis."
Trabert said state universities had $300 million in cash reserves. And he said local school districts collectively have $700 million in reserves from previous years.
Many attending the forum were pushing pet projects or ideas: a plea for a new bicycle path for Wichita, a warning about the high cost of developing wind power, and a suggestion that legalizing marijuana would make more sense than trying to deal with unenforceable marijuana laws.
One of the night's more popular proposals came from R.J. Dickens, who said he thinks it's time for the state to enact a "real person law" that would limit the use of recordings by companies that provide services to Kansas residents.
He said two recent frustrating exchanges — one by telephone and one through an exchange of e-mails — showed how hard it can be to make contact with a real person.
"We have a right to make contact with other human beings in a timely manner," he said.