Brownback – With Gov. Sam Brownback, it’s not wise to take what he says at face value. Recently, the governor signed into law a new school funding measure that for the next two years will fund schools with block grants. Brownback noted that education funding will go from $3.98 billion this school year to $4.09 billion next school year and to $4.16 billion in the 2016-17 school year. So, spending on schools is increasing. Yeah, but the bulk of that increase is going into teachers’ retirement. Let’s not pretend that it provides more money for school districts to pump into their classrooms. With Brownback, always check the numbers. And more than likely the correct response is going to be, “Yeah, but....”
Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the Legislature’s bill waiving the need for a permit or training in order to carry a concealed weapon. Polls had shown a majority of Kansans wanting to keep those requirements. Legislators helped Brownback out with a bill enshrining into law his harsh work rules and time limits for welfare recipients, while throwing in a few new restrictions of their own. These and other bills passed earlier will make a deep imprint that will be difficult to erase. And some of the biggest changes are being rushed through the Legislature by procedural tactics that deny members a chance to voice dissent or propose changes.
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Highway fund – While running for re-election, Gov. Sam Brownback claimed Kansas could have his income-tax policy and still fund high-quality services, including a state-of-the-art highway system. Yet we’re already seeing signs of stalled highway maintenance, a situation that only will worsen as more projects are deferred. That’s hardly a way to attract new businesses. Brownback, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revising his radical tax plan as a way to restore needed revenue. It’s an increasingly destructive economic path. Rather than see the state transportation program and other progress stall, state lawmakers must stop a governor determined to go backward.
KPERS – Borrowing money to invest flies in the face of conventional wisdom in individual investing. Risking public employees’ pensions – and, by extension, all state taxpayers – to risky investing seems even more reckless.
Liquor sales – The Kansas Senate has tossed a not-so-new wrinkle into the debate about whether grocery stores in Kansas should be allowed to sell hard liquor, wine and strong beer and convenience stores should be allowed to sell strong beer — county-by-county votes. Opponents to the Senate’s county-by-county offering say it would create uneven regulations throughout the state. So what’s new about that? Legislators have spent enough time on the issue. Pass the bill and let each county’s voters decide the issue for their own community. Legislators have more important things to do than listen to the same arguments about alcohol sales every year.
Moving elections – The apathy that voters have shown toward local elections certainly is worthy of concern, but combining local elections with state and national contests in the fall isn’t the right remedy. Other steps, such as increased use of mail ballots, are worth exploring before throwing out the current system for an alternative that presents a whole different set of problems for voters and election officials.