Safety net – In the coming year, Kansans likely will hear that thanks to actions of Gov. Sam Brownback and his Legislature, the state has reduced by half the number of families receiving welfare assistance. But no one should think even for a moment the statistic is proof that Kansas has fewer people in poverty or that more people are working their way up to better incomes and better lives. In fact, a recent report from the United Community Services of Johnson County shows the number means more Kansans are living with less, more children are in poverty, and more families have less ability to build a stable future. What passes for a safety net in this state under Brownback and his handpicked majority of lawmakers amounts to telling someone to pull himself up by his bootstraps and then taking away his boots to make sure he can’t.
Drug tests – It is way too early to hazard a guess as to how many welfare recipients will fail state-administered drug tests when the testing program goes into effect July 1, or how much the state will save by eliminating assistance payments to drug users. If Kansas’ experience is similar to that of some other states, however, it will find itself spending more money on administering the testing program than it saves. If that proves to be the case, legislators should end the program. There’s no reason to toss good money after bad.
School funding – By rashly signing off on deep income-tax cuts, Gov. Sam Brownback and the conservative-dominated Legislature have worked themselves into a corner from which few good options are possible. Assuming the Kansas Supreme Court upholds a district court panel’s ruling, as expected, the Legislature would have to choose compliance or defiance. The best course would be for the Legislature to roll back some of the income-tax cuts that have decimated the state budget and forced Kansans to pay more in sales taxes and property taxes. Unfortunately, too many lawmakers are still beholden to the myth that income-tax cuts are the road to a job-creating economy.
Kansas City Star
KanCare – A federal decision that will force Kansas officials to revise, or perhaps reconsider, some of their plans for the KanCare program is good news for Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the families who care for them. The plan to move residential programs, job training and living assistance services for the developmentally disabled under KanCare has never been a popular idea among Kansans who would be directly affected. Administration of those services is far different than for medical care, and other states that have tried a similar plan have run into considerable problems.
Disease threats – When Kansas was ranked the most vulnerable state in the nation in 2012 when it comes to infectious disease threats, officials decried the assessment. This past year, Kansas fared a little better, but the rebuttals and dismissals of the report continue. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the report does not offer a “comprehensive look” at the state’s public health system. That might be the case, but the indicators measured seem valid enough to at least warrant attention. Improving the overall public health of Kansas should be something that interests everybody.
Hays Daily News