Letter from Kansas Representative Charlotte O'Hara, an Overland Park Republican.
How can Kansas with a Republican Governor and Republican control of both the House and Senate pass budgets that have a 6.7% increase in the State General Fund? How can an amendment to the appropriations bill in the House enacting a spending freeze at 2011 levels only garner 8 votes out 125? Why wasn't the one-cent increase in Kansas' state sales tax repealed, a repeal on which many freshmen Republicans ran?
How can east coast governors, in the land of liberals, Republican Governor Christie and Democrat Governor Cuomo cut spending to begin to bring their budgets under control while Kansas, in the land of conservatives, increase spending by 6.7% over 2011 levels and an astounding 15% increase over 2010?
The world indeed seems to have turned upside down and inside out!
Well, here's my perspective, for what it is worth. Governor Brownback came home to Kansas after 12 years in Washington with a wonderful opportunity to lead our state out of this spending addiction cycle of more resources going to the public sector, which requires ever increasing our taxes, which drives more and more businesses out of Kansas, which requires even more increases in taxes.
Governor Brownback chose to go the less bold road of holding the status quo (opposed the repeal of the one cent sales tax and raided KDOT for $200 million) with promises that as soon as the Legislature is out of session and the administration sees our tail lights leaving, that is when the changes will be made!
OK, nice story, but I thought it was the Legislature's job to pass a conservative appropriations bill that would have at least capped spending at 2011 level and made the necessary cuts to truly balance our books. Yes, education would have taken an additional $257 million in cuts (approximately 8% total cut), but the state's reserves would have increased by $200 million.
Meanwhile, the schools have $750 million of unencumbered cash in their reserve funds while the state reserves estimated in the House version of the appropriations bill are $78 million (which is now reduced by an additional $10.1 million due to ANOTHER increase in estimates of Human Resources caseloads). Schools are sitting on more than 10 times the amount of estimated reserves for the entire Kansas State Budget!
So my friends, it's up to you, because you cannot trust the overwhelmingly Republican House and Senate to abide by the Republican platform of less government, lower taxes or opposing illegal immigration (interesting how Republicans went flying from the immigration issue, but at least now I know whom I don't want in a foxhole to watch my back).
No, Topeka's "kick the can on down the road" mantra is alive and well with the attitude of "there's always next year when we politicians will really be brave and will get the job done." Do you know how long that excuse has been used? It seems this annual game plan has been used extensively in both the Senate (well, at least they have the reputation of being liberal) and the House (that really surprised me, because I really believed House Leadership was fiscally conservative).
With the budgets that the House and Senate passed we simply have set ourselves up with an impossible task for the 2013 budget year that will require even deeper cuts (which we won't make) and the sunset of the .6 cent sales tax will be kissed goodbye.
Peasants with pitchforks are needed to get the attention of the Topeka elite. They don't think that you, the voters, are paying attention. The Topeka elite believes that they can operate in the Capitol bubble and not have to bear the consequences at the ballot box in 2012. I hope they are wrong, because we need another dramatic defeat of incumbents who annually pass appropriation bills with spending increases intact. Then and only then will the message come through loud and clear, the good people of Kansas will not stand by and watch silently as their state is brought to the brink of bankruptcy.
As we go back in session on the 27th, please continue to hold me in your prayers.
Representative, 27th District
Connect with Benjamin Hodge at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas. He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011. His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters,the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRA, Kansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).