For the third year in a row, Sedgwick County commissioners couldn’t agree unanimously on a legislative platform, essentially a wish list the county gives to state legislators this time of year.
This time, the board split on whether to oppose health care reform.
Four of five commissioners supported the platform, which says the county “supports the state’s efforts to fight the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. We recognize the significant cost to businesses and the negative impact this legislation has on job creation. We encourage the state to utilize all options and available resources to oppose implementation of this law.”
Tim Norton voted against the platform. Norton, who considers public health one of his major interests, said he was offended by other commissioners’ reference to the health care act as “Obamacare.”
In the agenda, county leaders also send a clear message to the state: Don’t make us pay for state programs and problems. For example, the county asks the state to keep convicted felons in prison, not county jails. The agenda also says that the county “opposes any action by the legislature that creates an unfunded mandate on counties and our citizens. If the state deems it necessary to control or manage how counties operate, then sufficient funds should be provided to meet the cost of imposing such requirements on counties.”
Commissioners took out a section of the agenda that supported legislation limiting illegal immigrants’ ability to get jobs and tax-supported social services other than when they pose a risk to public health or safety. Commissioner Richard Ranzau pushed to include it, saying that illegal immigrants are a drain on government resources.
He said the county should push to ensure that tax dollars are spent on “people who are here legally.”
The board has been divided the past couple years over whether to push the Legislature to give voters the chance to vote on property tax increases that raise the mill levy. Commissioner Karl Peterjohn has advocated for what he calls a taxpayer bill of rights since campaigning on the issue before he was elected in 2008.
But he so far has been unable to convince his colleagues to go there. They said they understand giving voters a say on a major project such as building Intrust Bank Arena, but that they think voters don’t want an election to approve every tax increase. Commission Chairman Dave Unruh and Commissioner Jim Skelton emphasized that voters elect people to make those decisions for them, and if they don’t like what elected officials do, they can vote them out of office.