Budget shortfall – Just six days after Gov. Sam Brownback narrowly won re-election, state officials and university economists released new general fund revenue estimates. The upshot: State officials face the daunting challenge of having to slash the current budget and next year’s by more than $700 million. That’s a direct threat to funding that many thousands of Kansans rely on to provide solid school systems for their children, modern roads to drive on and safety-net services to care for the less fortunate.
House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said the state doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. In simplistic terms, he’s right. But good luck in finding hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, or “efficiencies,” as his ilk like to call them.
Unfortunately, Gov. Sam Brownback’s self-proclaimed “experiment” lives on. The question is how much damage will be done with the governor given four more years to test the flawed economic strategies.
Voter law – The Kansas proof-of-citizenship law, and Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s cavalier approach to enforcing it, have disenfranchised some 22,000 voters. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled against Kobach in his quixotic quest to “protect the integrity” of elections. Our recently re-elected secretary of state should get the message and concentrate on his duties as the state’s chief election clerk.
Kobach maintains that the proof-of-citizenship law is important to reduce the potential for voter fraud in Kansas. Ensuring the integrity of Kansas elections is important, but this system is not what legislators were promised. If the state’s proof-of-citizenship law is allowed to stand, the state has a responsibility to provide an easier avenue to meet that requirement. Acquiring a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship can be inconvenient and expensive for some would-be voters. The least the state can do is make sure people who meet that requirement don’t face additional registration obstacles.
Voter turnout – It seems every election cycle there’s a lot of talk about voter apathy and how, despite get-out-the-vote drives by both parties, little can be done to increase turnout. Yet this conversation seldom includes what we can do to modernize the voting process. We live in a fast-paced, electronic, information-based world, and yet one of our most important functions – free and public elections – still operates as it did when the telegraph was the newest form of communication. It’s about time we figured out how to do a little updating.
Moran – One of the key players on this year’s winning Republican team was Kansas first-term Sen. Jerry Moran. As chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, his task was to thoroughly vet political aspirants and produce candidates who could not only win primaries but general elections as well. We hope Moran’s stint as head of the NRSC provides a confidence boost that will carry over to the daily grind. The Republican Party needs more leaders of Moran’s caliber to help contain movement to the far right. Without an election of his own for two more years, Kansas’ junior senator can help moderate the majority party to work on behalf of the general public.