The short legislative session saw the usual unneeded bills, and no lasting fiscal remedy. But some of the ideas that were bundled and pushed through in the final days are worthy of praise and Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature, especially those aimed at promoting transparency and open government.
Democratic and moderate GOP state lawmakers spent much of this legislative session complaining about the unfairness of the state tax exemption for pass-through business income. They also noted how it was damaging the state’s finances without significantly boosting the state’s economy. Yet many of them voted last week against a bill to revoke the exemption.
The 2016 Legislature couldn’t be bothered to pass a budget that balanced, expecting the governor to finish the job with mostly unspecified cuts. That act of cowardice puts state-funded services and the state’s bond ratings at further risk, while leaving the structural unfairness and inadequacy of the state’s tax policy unaddressed.
We have a budget crisis. Supporters of the governor can call it what they want, but staring at a $290 million shortage is a crisis regardless of how it’s dressed up. And only one solution makes sense, and that is Option 4: Roll back the income tax cuts.
As a U.S. senator, Sam Brownback was second to none in advocating for those suffering because of war, persecution and oppression, often by citing the biblical admonition “that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans and the foreigner amongst you.” That makes him the last governor you’d expect to fearmonger about refugees, as he did again last week by pulling Kansas out of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program.
So there will be no official audit of whether the Kansas Department for Children and Families discriminates against or bullies same-sex couples in foster care and adoption matters. And gay and lesbian Kansans have another measure of where their rights and concerns rank among GOP priorities at the Statehouse, which is nowhere.
Even after last week’s lowering of revenue projections pushed the budget shortfall to $300 million, the Legislature’s GOP leaders still reportedly want to move swiftly to finish business for the year and clear the way for campaigning. But haste risks leaving some important work undone.
There is something cruel and unnerving about a forecast of destructive storms coinciding with Tuesday’s 25th anniversary of the deadly Andover tornado. At least the convergence of a tragic anniversary and present danger highlights the need for readiness and the proven results of such preparation.
At a time when public schools, roads, universities, health clinics and pensions are underfunded, the remedy to the state’s budget problems simply can’t be deeper cuts. Kansas desperately needs more revenue.
The $300 million state budget shortfall is daunting enough. But pulling the state’s finances out of peril demands something more than the one-time tricks proposed Wednesday by Gov. Sam Brownback’s office.
Chairing the Sedgwick County Commission mainly entails presiding at meetings. Yet current Chairman Jim Howell played a role in having local subcontractor Bothner and Bradley sacked from a county road study because he “personally” disliked the firm and baselessly suspected it was involved in last summer’s Quit the Cuts campaign against the county budget.
Once elected to office, even proponents of small government have a duty to govern competently. Yet nearly every report about state agencies or operations in Kansas these days includes some reference to how short staffing is verging on critical, with low pay often a factor.
Gov. Sam Brownback called the school finance bill he signed the product of “delicate legislative compromise.” In reality it was rammed through by Republicans who previously have not taken seriously their duty to fully finance Kansas K-12 schools.
Kids today will shape the future only if they reach it. Fortunately, area children at risk of violence, abuse and neglect have a lot of adults in their corner these days, in part because Wichita’s shocking eight deaths of young children from maltreatment of 2008 mobilized advocates to organize and act.