Here’s a promise we hope Gov. Mark Parkinson can keep. The Kansas governor told the Journal-World on Thursday that he would not approve any further cuts to funding for K-12 schools or higher education.
“My view is that we have cut education … as far as we can cut without jeopardizing the quality of the education we provide,” Parkinson said in the J-W interview.
Some education leaders would say the state already has crossed that line, but at least the governor is saying “no more.”
Because there is little chance state revenues will rise enough to cover an estimated $300 million state budget gap, Parkinson said he and his budget team were analyzing a variety of possibilities, including new taxes and the elimination of some sales tax exemptions. “The one thing that is not on the table,” he reiterated, “is to cut education any more.”
Also on Parkinson’s protected list are the state prison system and Medicaid services for the elderly and people with disabilities.
It will be hard to sell any kind of tax increase to many state legislators, but Parkinson has his priorities straight. Additional funding cuts for higher education will seriously harm the state’s ability to provide the solid work force that will feed economic recovery. Less funding for public schools will hurt the state in many ways, including potential increases in demand for social services in the state.
Funding for most of the programs that try to help state prison inmates successfully re-enter society already has been eliminated. Any further cuts would pose a public safety issue for the state. The 10 percent cut in reimbursement for Medicaid services that Parkinson announced earlier this month may already be prompting many nursing homes and health care providers to drop services for Medicaid patients. That’s an impact that will be felt by thousands of Kansans and their families.
Parkinson has been involved in many budget revisions since taking office last April, but unless he changes his mind about entering the 2010 governor’s race, the budget he proposes to the 2010 Kansas Legislature will be his one and only attempt to set a comprehensive blueprint for state spending.
It won’t be an easy job, but some of the priorities he articulated this week indicate Parkinson is focused on the best long-range interests of Kansas.