Kansans' thoughts and prayers are with the family of William Avery, the former Republican governor who died Wednesday at age 98. Avery was the last Kansas governor to feel the weight of the death penalty on his shoulders, having dealt with the appeals of the "In Cold Blood" killers and two others among the last to be hanged in the state, in 1965. Yet he advocated in 1985 that Kansas reinstate the death penalty, viewing it as reasonable protection for law-abiding citizens. Avery, who billed himself as "Kansas' No. 1 salesman" and served 10 years in Congress before running for governor, actually took pride in tax increases — though the 1965 package of income and sales taxes, intended to fund education and provide property-tax relief, denied him re-election in 1966. "The teachers told me they appreciated that. But when it got to election time, I saw no evidence they told anybody," Avery said decades later. Given that Gov. Mark Parkinson and legislators could face a fiscal 2011 budget shortfall of $500 million, it was sobering to realize Thursday that the shortfall Avery aimed to bridge back then was a mere $50 million.