Letters to the editor on local elections, KanCare, sequester, budget mistakes, minimum wage, gun control

02/24/2013 12:00 AM

02/22/2013 6:44 PM

Don’t mess with local elections

Legislative leaders need to abandon their efforts to “improve” local school board elections.

I am strongly opposed to House Bill 2271, which would move school board elections from the current spring election to join countless positions and issues on the November general election and would make school board elections partisan. It will cause local education issues to get lost amid national concerns.

The current system of nonpartisan elected leadership has served Kansas school districts well. School issues are best addressed in a nonpartisan fashion to address a community’s goals. That’s why 47 states elect school board seats in a nonpartisan fashion.

Currently, board members take office in July after an April election. That schedule coincides with a new school year, a new fiscal year and new teacher contracts. Moving the election to November and taking office in January would put new board members in the midst of contract negotiations with inadequate time to become acquainted with practices and concerns facing the district.

Working in tandem with the community and the League of Women Voters, USD 259 spent four years studying and refining our district election process. The result was community agreement to move to district elections approved by voters in November 1994. District elections ensure the board has broad-based geographical representation. Six board members are nominated by individual districts but then stand for election on a citywide basis. It requires board members to weigh local concerns with a districtwide perspective.

This current system serves our community and state quite well. Making the positions partisan and elected at-large does not serve democracy well.



KanCare confusing

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, praised the new state-run Medicaid system called “KanCare,” claiming that now poor and disabled Kansans will “get the care they need” and that for years Medicaid has been confusing for thousands of Kansans (“KanCare coming along,” Feb. 17 Opinion). My experience as a guardian of a man with developmental disabilities has been the opposite: KanCare is confusing and is denying Kansans the care they need.

When KanCare was implemented, my ward’s primary care physician of 14 years contracted with the KanCare insurance company I subsequently chose for my ward. Even so, this insurance company assigned my ward a new physician. Fortunately, my ward’s case manager intervened in his behalf. My ward is also chronically depressed and sees a trusted psychological counselor. But probably no more, since this counselor has not contracted with this insurance company. Unless it grants an exception, I will have to choose not the best counselor for my ward but a contracting one who is taking new patients.

I also have heard of providers not being paid, including one of my ward’s. Providers will opt out of the system if payments aren’t timely, leaving people without physicians.

Despite KanCare’s record, it will expand next year. Unless the Legislature acts now to carve services to the developmentally disabled community out of KanCare (House Bill 2029), disabled Kansans will have every aspect of their lives – place of residence, transportation, daily activities and health care – regulated by a for-profit insurance company. Judging from my experience with KanCare, it’s likely their quality of life will deteriorate.



Cuts aren’t ‘brutal’

President Obama has launched a campaign pressuring Congress to avoid “brutal” spending cuts, which he says could hurt a still wobbly economy and increase the unemployment rate. I cannot comprehend how he describes cuts in rate of increase as “brutal” and a “meat-cleaver approach” when the cut is a tiny fraction of the budget. The so-called cuts will not reduce the more than $16 trillion debt.

The “brutal” sequester cuts would be $85 billion taken from a $3.5 trillion budget. The “cut” amounts to 2.4 percent of the total budget. Any business or government that can’t cut a budget by 2.4 percent without causing the disaster the president has told us will happen is already bankrupt.

In 2011, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a list of 640 federal programs that are duplicated or in some cases triplicated. Any government run by sane elected officials would want to correct this waste. The minimum savings is $200 billion, probably more, yet nothing has been done.

That $16.5 trillion debt will soon be $20 trillion and soon after $25 trillion. It is quite simply unsustainable.



Mistake OK?

So the state budget director, Steve Anderson, takes the fall for our governor running around the state giving wrong numbers for months to claim credit for reducing state spending, even though spending actually has increased since he took office (Feb. 19 Eagle). What do the Republican legislators say?

Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says that mistakes can happen to anybody. A $2 billion mistake can happen to anybody? Come on. A $200 mistake in my checkbook means I’m in the red and getting overdrafts. Heck, a $20 mistake gets me in the red. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, says: “You get one mistake. It’s bound to happen.”

Had former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius done anything close to this, those same legislators, and nearly every other Republican legislator, would have been screaming for an investigation. Will there be an investigation of this? Of course not. There might – and I emphasize the word “might” – have been an investigation if the Senate still had more than a handful of moderate legislators. But with the rubber-stampers in there now, there isn’t a chance.



Not one size

The president proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour, or about a 24 percent increase. Everyone who got a 24 percent raise last year, or expects one this year, raise your hand.

This proposal caused people to scramble for studies supporting their point of view. The proponents claim it will boost the economy; the antis claim it will cost jobs and raise prices. Both sides are missing the point: It depends on where you live.

Laws passed in Washington, D.C., are one size fits all, affecting each state or region differently. Nine dollars in the District of Columbia will not buy as much as in Derby. The cost-of-living index is 143 in D.C. and 92 in Derby. You would need a $77,273 salary to live the same in D.C. as on a $50,000 salary in Derby.

The answer is less central federal government, deferring to state and local governments. A core management principle is that problems are best solved at the lowest level possible.



Quit complaining

“Lead on guns” (Feb. 19 Letters to the Editor) talked about moderate and conservative presidents taking on liberal causes and their bravery for doing so, and appealed to the Kansas congressional delegation to do the same to promote unnecessary and illegal gun control.

Having been in contact with U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, I have been assured that any more gun control will be dead on arrival when it hits the floor of their chambers. This knee-jerk frenzy of more and ineffective gun-control laws will do nothing to curb the violent tendencies of criminals, and the proposals therefore are without merit. So why is there even a debate?

Liberals have been saying to the conservatives since the 2012 election: “Quit complaining and shut up. Our guy won.” Well, now the conservatives can say the same thing back. These new proposals will never be passed by our current Congress, dominated by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and moderate senators in the Senate. So liberals should shut up and quit complaining, because we won.



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