Letters to the Editor

June 8, 2014

Letters to the editor on raising sales tax, economic development, foster care, tobacco, VA priorities, state government

Of course we need to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Few would argue against a long-range water plan. Job development is a priority, even though some sharpies will find a way to use it as a personal slush fund. Bake sales and voluntary donations cannot provide the vast amounts needed. We must fund such an effort through a tax. But what tax?

Raise income tax, not sales tax

Of course we need to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Few would argue against a long-range water plan. Job development is a priority, even though some sharpies will find a way to use it as a personal slush fund. Bake sales and voluntary donations cannot provide the vast amounts needed. We must fund such an effort through a tax. But what tax?

A sales tax is the most regressive tax to use. To ask the single mother working at Walmart or McDonald’s to pay a surcharge of 8.15 percent on every loaf of bread she needs does not seem a fair way to go.

Until recently, Kansas was No. 2 among the states that tax food. Mississippi, at 7 percent, was No. 1. Many Kansas localities have add-ons making their sales tax higher than Mississippi’s, so many Kansans are now No. 1 in sales tax on food. Do we really want Wichita to have the highest food tax in the nation?

A tax of only a fraction of 1 percent on earnings or wealth would raise more money – more equitably – than adding a 1 percent tax on food. Those of us who have profited most from our system of government should be the ones who pay more to protect it.



More of the same

“Are we satisfied with our status quo?” That was the question recently posed by Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition chairman Gary Schmitt (“Is Wichita satisfied?” May 18 Opinion). The answer is quite simply “no.”

Unfortunately, the plan presented by GWEDC is just a more expensive version of the same things we have been doing for the past decade. Despite all the lip service to entrepreneurship, this plan has the makings for the same group of insiders using city money to fund business interests at the expense of working taxpayers.

I want a change in the status quo. This plan is the status quo.



Expand oversight

OK, let’s have a community conversation about the jobs fund (“City weighs transparency in jobs fund,” June 1 Local & State). Most of the ideas presented in the article made sense. But a powerful independent commission made up of only five people might need discussion. How about a commission of 50 that requires a two-thirds majority vote for approval? This commission would be diverse in its demographics (gender, race, age, occupation, education, location of residence and other factors).

With a large, volunteer body truly representative of the community, and a supermajority requirement for approval, perhaps $80 million could be wisely spent without outside influence to effectively grow jobs in Wichita.



Need foster homes

I was saddened by the lengthy story about child abuse last weekend (“The girl in the basement,” June 1 Eagle). I was glad, however, that this story was publicized.

The reality of child abuse and neglect is, unfortunately, alive and well in our society. The organization I represent, EmberHope (Youthville), has been in existence since 1927. I have spoken to individuals who received services from us in the 1930s and 1940s, and many of their stories of abuse and neglect were the same as those of children today.

When children have to be removed from their home for safety reasons, they are often placed with relatives or in foster homes. Foster homes come in many shapes and sizes, and foster parents range from young to older individuals, married couples and single individuals. These individuals care for children who have been hurt, traumatized and yet often still long to be with their own parents. It takes a special person to fill this role.

May was National Foster Care Month. I want to applaud the more than 300 foster families we support throughout Kansas. Their work and unconditional caring do not go without notice.

While we are grateful for our foster parents, the need for more foster homes is great. I encourage anyone interested to consider becoming a foster parent. If you want to learn more, please contact us at 800-593-1950, ext. 8118, or visit us at www.emberhope.org.


President and CEO



Deadly epidemic

Tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death in Kansas and the entire United States. “Survey links incomes, sites of tobacco sellers” (May 30 Business Today) addressed a recent study of 50 tobacco retailers in Wichita that determined 26 percent display tobacco advertising within three feet of the floor; 25 percent have gum, toys or candy near tobacco products; and a greater presence of tobacco retailers are in lower-income areas.

Kansas is not doing enough to protect our kids from this deadly epidemic. Nearly 9 in 10 smokers started before they were 18, but there are a number of proven ways to reduce the rates of youth smoking. For example, increasing the price of cigarettes especially changes youth behavior. For every 10 percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, we see a 7 percent reduction in youth smoking. Not only can tobacco tax increases ultimately save lives, but they bring much-needed revenue to state government.

Tobacco is the only product that when used as intended will kill you. We know the tobacco epidemic is a winnable battle. We must take a stand to get tobacco out of our communities and make the health and well-being of our youths the priority.


President and CEO

Kansas Health Foundation


VA priorities

I am an overseas veteran of World War II. I never saw combat but did sustain a service-related injury that was treated in an overseas Army hospital and never bothered me later as a civilian.

About 50 years later I went to the Robert J. Dole Veteran Affairs Medical Center, because I had relatives who were veterans and also never saw combat who were getting prescription drugs for 96 percent less than what I was paying. I thought the considerations I got were appropriate but necessarily bureaucratic. They found that my priority for service would be about sixth or seventh out of eight, the first or highest being for veterans with combat injuries. That seemed fair to me, and I decided not to continue with VA medical service.

Now I read that even members of Congress recognize that waits for VA medical service are caused by demand that exceeds what can be provided by existing staff. Still, they say the need is to fix the mismanagement that put patients at risk.

That ought to be easy since I expect it would be found that Congress may have increased funding for the VA but never determined if it was enough to staff up to meet the demand.



May be moving

I began my life in a neighboring state, came of age there and moved to Kansas, where I have lived the past 52 years. My wife has lived her entire life in Kansas. We have lived in our house for 33 years, and we love it inside and out. We have most of our family within a three-hour drive. We have friends and neighbors whom we cherish, a church that we treasure, and doctors with whom we trust our health and lives.

We have just begun a plan to move away to escape the Kansas state government. We are both well-educated and follow political news, including the work of the Legislature, the secretary of state’s denying the freedom to vote to tens of thousands, and the governor who handpicked legislators. The governor also wants changes in the law to enable him to pick members of the Kansas Supreme Court and to take over the running of Medicare and more.

We would prefer to be a part of a single nation, undivided, with liberty and justice for all.

The government isn’t the problem; the governor is the problem. We’ll make our moving decision after the November election.



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