State budget – After the Legislature approved deep income tax cuts that took effect in 2013, revenues have plunged. In recent days, Gov. Sam Brownback and others have tried to obfuscate this fiscal disaster. Focus on what happened when Brownback and a bipartisan group of top lawmakers agreed to borrow $675 million to cover bills early in the 2015 fiscal year, starting July 1. That’s a huge leap from the $300 million borrowed in June 2013 to pay the current fiscal year’s bills. Borrowing more money is bad, right? That’s what Brownback emphasized in a statement last year on this very topic. But now that the situation has dramatically reversed, Brownback isn’t emphasizing the costs and risks tied to such a large amount of borrowing. Instead, the governor returned to his unsupported claims, repeating his upbeat view of the Kansas economy, despite the harsh facts staring Kansans in the face.
Kansas City Star
Kobach – Secretary of State Kris Kobach has drawn challengers this election year, and for good reason. The ultraconservative Republican has wasted taxpayer time and money crafting strategies to address problems that don’t exist, making him a driving force behind voter suppression measures. Assaults on voter rights have no place in our democracy. Kansans who believe as much should be eager for change in the secretary of state’s office.
Garden City Telegram
If we were to ask people to name the past three Kansas secretaries of state, we might get a lot of blank stares. There’s a reason for that. The secretary of state has little reason to be in the news. Unless you’re the current Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, in which case you’re in the news a lot. That’s because Kobach has spent years gallivanting around the country and keeping himself in the headlines while raising the phony issue of illegal immigrant voter fraud.
Tuition – It’s tough to spin a 5.2 percent tuition increase as “restrained,” but that’s what Fred Logan, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, did. About all that makes the 5.2 percent increase for in-state undergraduates at K-State restrained is that, according to Logan, all the increases for the past 13 years have been larger. The latest increase dwarfs the inflation rate. But present state funding is 4.2 percent less than the regents universities received eight years ago. And given that lawmakers’ priorities have shifted to historic tax cuts that undermine funding for all state programs and services, the state’s share of higher education funding will continue to decline and the burden on students and their families will continue to increase.
School taxes – A new Kansas law requires county treasurers to turn over the 20 mills property tax revenue they collect for local schools to the Kansas treasurer for distribution. Many legislators weren’t aware of the provision, buried in a bill dealing with mineral severance taxes and oil and gas depletion funds, until after it passed. Yet it represents a power grab by the state. Given the Legislature’s recent financial record and penchant for political revenge and micromanaging education, school districts, banks and property taxpayers all have very good reason to be worried.
Clay Center Dispatch