State budget – The budget presented by Gov. Sam Brownback is yet another attempt to patch over the state’s fiscal problems without addressing the dire revenue shortfall responsible for the crisis. He has proposed some tax changes, including a welcome slowdown of planned income tax cuts. But his two-year spending plan continues to shirk the state’s responsibility to adequately fund schools and vital services, pay its pension obligations, take care of vulnerable citizens, and maintain its roads and bridges. It proposes a radical change in school funding that likely would wallop districts that serve high numbers of needy students and create even more of a clash with the courts.
This might be the closest thing to an admission we’ll get from Gov. Sam Brownback that his fiscal experiment is failing. “My budget proposal recognizes that the current budget trajectory is unsustainable and that difficult solutions are required by state law as well as by fiscal prudence,” Brownback said when he unveiled his two-year budget. “Unsustainable,” in this instance, is pretty generous. The state’s financial situation has hit rock bottom, and needs remedy immediately.
Gov. Sam Brownback obviously believes his “new course” for Kansas is a good one. He won a second term on that belief (with a lot of help from his wealthy friends) and, frankly, deserves a chance to take that course. In the process, however, Kansans need to watch carefully for the stumbles, and possibly the disastrous falls, that can occur when a leader like Brownback has his hand in working people’s pockets and his head up in the clouds.
Bank of KDOT –Gov. Sam Brownback isn’t the first governor to transfer money from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help balance the budget. The transportation system seems to have weathered the withdrawals, but at what point do these transfers seriously compromise the quality of the state’s highways? High-quality, well-maintained highways are an important safety, convenience and economic development asset for the state, but it won’t take long to lose that asset if KDOT funds continue to be routinely siphoned off for other uses.
Kobach – Secretary of State Kris Kobach can’t seem to help himself when it comes to meddling with Kansas’ elections. He already has made voting more of a hassle for Kansans with his voter ID laws, supposedly designed to protect Kansans from the nearly invisible threat of fraudulent voters, and has sought the power to serve as judge, jury and executioner should anyone actually ever attempt to vote without proper identification. In the process, he’s kept nearly 20,000 Kansans from the voter rolls. Now Kobach has proposed a bill to bring back straight party ticket voting to Kansas. No need to think. No need to know the candidates or what they stand for – just check the box that says “Republican” or “Democrat.”
Cop cameras – Proposed legislation that would require law enforcement agencies in Kansas to equip their officers with on-person video cameras has great merit. Unfortunately, the legislation has a high price tag that some agencies would find burdensome. And unless something strange happens between now and the end of the legislative session, it’s unlikely the state would provide funding for the body cams.