Turnpike – Merging the Kansas Turnpike Authority with the state Department of Transportation is an exercise in political and governmental cannibalism. The Kansas Turnpike is an independent enterprise that benefits the state, one of the most successful in our history. It is nothing short of ridiculous that a “conservative” administration like Gov. Sam Brownback’s is willing to treat a long-standing state asset like the KTA as a fiscal cookie jar for short-term budget-balancing purposes.
Winfield Daily Courier
Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget estimates $30 million in savings over the next two years by folding the Kansas Turnpike Authority into the Kansas Department of Transportation. But how, exactly? “We do not have that list,” Transportation Secretary Mike King told lawmakers. Apparently the plan would be for the turnpike authority and highway department to start working on the savings if the Legislature approves the merger. That’s a leap of faith the Legislature should not make.
Kansas City Star
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Unions – Conservative lawmakers in Topeka are bullying labor unions. Sadly, they are acting like hired thugs for large corporate interests that finance their campaigns. Using names such as “Paycheck Protection Act,” conservative lawmakers are carrying water for Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. The act would prohibit automatic payroll deductions for union dues that fund political activities. In other words – let’s pass laws to mute our political foes. This attack is unseemly, unnecessary and – some of it, at least – unconstitutional. Stop it.
Arkansas City Traveler
Private employers aren’t bound to do payroll deductions for employees for anything other than state and federal taxes. So why should a public employer? Furthermore, arguably a public employer shouldn’t be the conduit for public dollars making their way into political advocacy and campaign finance. But to hear the opponents talk, you would think the state was making public-employee unions illegal. While weakening unions might be the motivation of some lawmakers, this legislation hardly does it. The unions will continue to exist, and members can contribute to lobbying and political activities.
Lobbying – At least some Kansas legislators apparently aren’t interested in hearing what any local government entity has to say about how they run the state. An amazing piece of legislation that was discussed in the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee essentially would make it illegal for any public funds to be used to pay for either direct or indirect lobbying services or even membership dues in an association that engages in lobbying the Kansas Legislature. That includes elected officials, local government administrators and, potentially, any group that receives public money of any kind, such as chambers of commerce or even statewide organizations. The assertion of Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn that public officials who want to lobby on issues outside their “official duty” could do so on their own dime makes no sense. These public officials aren’t representing their own point of view; they are advocating for their constituents. That is their “official duty.”