Revenue shortfall – This past legislative session had a surreal tone, as many legislators chose to ignore the elephant in the Statehouse – the fact that Kansas is going broke. Its budget is only balanced by drawing down reserves. That message was driven home as new figures showed state revenues fell $92.8 million short of projections for April. Fooling almost no one, the Brownback administration blamed the problem on President Obama’s tax policies. The next day, Moody’s Investors Service lowered the state’s credit rating a notch.
Kansas City Star
Although we’ve long suspected that Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts will spell disaster for the state, it seems a bit premature to panic over one month’s revenue drop. Evidently Brownback administration officials would disagree with us, because panicking they are. In a news release, the Governor’s Office blamed April’s revenue shortfall on, of all things, President Obama. Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said the drop was “an undeniable result of President Obama’s failed economic policies of increasing taxes and overregulation.” So, if May’s numbers are back up, does that mean that Obama gets the credit for that, too?
Short session – Kansas legislators finished their work in 79 days this year, 11 days short of the 90 days favored by the Kansas Constitution, which does allow extended legislative sessions. Given that this newspaper usually encourages our lawmakers to get their work done early, the short session must be recognized as a positive achievement.
Wind energy – Most Kansans support the growth of the wind-energy industry in the state. And the state’s utilities all are well on their way to meeting the renewable portfolio standard without any problem. Yet special interests representing the oil and gas industry have been successful ingraining in compliant politicians and their followers a perception that they somehow aren’t American if they don’t promote good old dirty energy such as oil, gas and coal. More concerning, however, is the repeated spread of a falsehood that the RPS has driven up utility prices for consumers.
Open records – Kansans looking for a bright spot in this year’s legislative session can take note of a bill that will open some law enforcement records to the public. The legislation is a watered-down version of a bill supported by the Kansas Press Association, but it still provides important public access to probable-cause documents used to justify search and arrest warrants across the state. The fact that Kansas kept search and arrest records closed was a national embarrassment. Even with its limits, the law passed this month is an important step in the right direction.
Medical pot – Kansas policymakers still resist legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, bogged down by the fear of it becoming a gateway to recreational pot use. Unfortunately, their thinking overlooks the potential benefit of marijuana easing the pain and suffering of patients with serious ailments ranging from epilepsy to cancer.
Garden City Telegram