State budget cuts – As part of the state budget fix, Kansas budget director Shawn Sullivan announced that the state was tapping the Kansas Department of Transportation for another $8 million. Other contributors to the bailout were $18 million in federal money that was meant to go to health care coverage for children, and $9 million from unused funds being swept from state agencies. Gov. Sam Brownback told the Associated Press that it’s all about efficiency. We’re all for being more efficient, but that’s not what’s going on here. How often have you yanked money from your savings to cover a foolish purchase and told yourself: “Man, now that’s efficiency”? No, this is about Brownback and his sycophants in the Legislature covering their collective tushes.
No wonder Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t show up to announce how he wanted to balance the shaky Kansas budget. Instead, he made budget director Shawn Sullivan attend a news conference and reveal that the state will rely on nearly $18 million in federal funds for a program that provides health care for children. That’s right: Washington is coming to the rescue of a governor who’s made his disdain for some federal programs part of his ultraconservative shtick.
Job growth – Governing magazine recently listed Kansas among states with the worst job growth during the first half of the calendar year, a study Gov. Sam Brownback dismissed because it addressed private-sector and government jobs. He wants to ignore the public-sector side, even though a job is a job – especially when it comes to getting the unemployed working and self-sufficient. And all workers put money back into the economy. The governor also deliberately misled Kansans recently by trying to paint 1.44 percent growth in private-sector jobs from 2013 to 2015 as great improvement over the 0.93 percent from 1995 to 2012. The previous 17-year period included significant economic setbacks (not self-inflicted, as we have now), with the more recent years aided by a rebounding national economy.
Foster care audit – In a disappointing but not surprising 5-4 vote, the Kansas Legislative Post Audit Committee opted not to audit the state’s foster care system. The audit request was made in part to ensure the Department for Children and Families was doing enough to ensure the safety of young Kansans under its charge. The committee’s vote had five Republicans against and four Democrats in favor of an audit. House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, noted how complex the foster care system is, how a standing House committee already has oversight, and that the Kansas Judicial Council already has said it will review the entire process. We stand unconvinced this Legislature has the capacity to do anything other than create even more problems for the privatized foster care system.
Mental health – It should come as no surprise that a recently released report from a special task force to identify the condition of Kansas’ mental health treatment capabilities found them to be lacking. This path was started down years ago when budgets were cut to community mental health providers. Spending needs to be increased, not cut, for this all-important purpose.