The Kansas Legislature is now in session and faces a daunting task: how to deal with what may be a prospective $1 billion deficit in the state budget. I can claim no expertise in dealing with such matters; I doubt that there are very many of us who can, but, for what it’s worth, here are my suggestions:
1. Do not increase taxes. In a deep recession too many Kansans are already experiencing economic hardship. Government simply should not put greater burdens on the citizenry than they already face. The purpose of government is to help its constituents. In times of economic crisis, government must not create greater economic burdens on those constituents.
2. Do not shift economic burdens from the state to the counties and municipalities. Far too often, our leaders have taken the politically expedient path of shifting economic burdens to local governments so that they can claim that they have not increased taxes and not cut services. This, in my opinion, is the worst kind of hypocrisy. Shifting responsibility is nothing more than a cop-out. If hard decisions need to be made, they shouldn’t be shifted onto others. Our leaders in Topeka have to take responsibility; that’s why we elected them.
3. Do not let partisan politics override good policy. We are in an economic crisis which few of us have ever experienced. Now is not the time for partisanship. Democrats and Republicans need to work together to come up with the best budget possible. There is no time for scoring political points or trying to gain political advantage. Kansas needs its legislators to think only of the welfare of the state and not of re-election. It is time to remember our forefathers who sacrificed themselves over and over, in the Revolution, during the many wars we have fought, during the Depression, and to make sure that every decision made by the Legislature is made solely for the sake of the state and its people and not for personal advantage.
4. Analyze every proposed budget cut in terms not only of what they will save in the short term but also in terms of what they will cost in the future. Decisions made by the Legislature today will have effect not only next year, but for many years to come. When evaluating budget cuts the Legislature must consider not only the effect of such cuts in 2009 but their effect in 2010, 2011, 2012, and for many years to come. We cannot afford to think only in the short term. We must realize that the actions we take today will have effects for many years to come.
Kansas and Kansans have survived tough times before. We’ve survived wars, the Dust Bowl and economic downturns. We will survive the present economic crisis. We will survive because we are strong; we are survivors. Today, we need our legislators to rise above partisanship, rise above personal ambition and political advantage, and to be wise and to think of our future and our children’s future. Only then will we rise above this crisis. I have no doubt that they and we shall do so.