Lawsuit cycle – No matter how many times the schools sue for more money and win, our current state government will always do all it can to not comply with the courts. So the lawsuits will never end. The state could halt the lawsuit cycle by complying with the courts, but that probably would mean raising taxes, and that’s not going to happen.
KPERS cut – Gov. Sam Brownback said he would cut $58 million from the state’s contribution of taxpayer revenues into the state’s pension plan in the current year. It’s an element of a desperate scheme to balance this year’s budget. It was the wrong move, though not a surprising one, given the financial woes Brownback has helped create for Kansas.
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Schools vote – Voters in the Lawrence school district received a ballot in their mailboxes asking whether the district should be allowed to maintain its local option budget at the current level. It’s hard to know what will happen to state funding for K-12 education in the next year, but approving the current level of local funding for the district is a prudent way to support the Lawrence district as it ventures into uncertain financial territory.
Payday loans – Kansas allows payday and title loans that too often take advantage of the working poor, with the loans in some instances costing consumers nearly 400 percent interest. Kansas does have some restrictions, such as limiting short-term loans of seven to 30 days to $500. Borrowers also may not have more than two loans at a time. But the Kansas Legislature failed in past attempts to put a more reasonable cap on interest, and allow the businesses to continue making money without charging consumers exorbitant fees that put many in the vicious borrow-pay-borrow cycle.
Ethanol – Solyndra is synonymous with liberal Obama administration failure. It was a California-based solar company that was financed by a Department of Energy program and subsequently went bust. But that same controversial stimulus program also financed the Abengoa cellulosic ethanol plant near Hugoton in far southwest Kansas, a project coveted by Kansas and considered a great success. The $500 million plant is the largest cellulosic biorefinery in the world. It takes inedible crop waste such as stalks, leaves and husks and turns it into an ethanol fuel. The Abengoa plant at Hugoton also created 75 jobs and a $5 million payroll. It’s been good for Kansas, helping the state to diversify its agriculture industry and position it on the forefront of biofuels development.
Congress – The 114th Congress was gaveled into session last week, marking the first time Republicans have had control of both houses in eight years. The conservative faction of the House Republican caucus gave early indication it will not follow leadership meekly. Ultraconservatives might be able to dupe voters in states such as Kansas and gain control, but they will not be able to dismantle the national Republican Party – let alone the nation – with ideologies formulated for white, Christian, male, heterosexual businessmen who clamor for smaller and less intrusive government except when it fits their narrow definition of what’s morally correct. Or at least we hope not.