Most anytime a Kansas governor presents his or her budget proposals at the start of a legislative session, there are bound to be critics, as well as those who suggest the governor is right on target, considering the economic situation of the state at that particular time.
This certainly is the case concerning Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ proposed budget revealed Tuesday.
Kansas is facing severe money problems, and it will be up to the governor, but primarily to members of the Kansas Legislature, to determine how the state and its myriad of agencies and programs will be funded and how the state’s taxpayers will be affected.
One area in which the governor is to be congratulated is her recommendation to merge the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. and Kansas Inc. into the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Not long ago, a Journal-World editorial suggested it would be wise to place all state economic development programs related to bioscience matters under one umbrella because there is much duplication of efforts between KTEC and the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Along with duplication of efforts, there is the matter of sound, effective management and the salaries of those leading these two efforts. Salaries and bonuses for the KTEC and KBA leaders now range from $200,000-plus to more than $300,000, making these individuals probably among the most highly paid state agency employees.
Many will fight to keep KTEC and KBA as separate programs, but, as in the case of KTEC, which was started in the mid-1980s with two staff members and a budget of $200,000, there is a tendency for self-promotion and to significantly increase employees and compensation as quickly as possible. The same is true with KBA.
There is a question of whether KBA is operating as a free, independent, non-political body, working for the benefit of the entire state, as was intended by those who helped design the enabling legislation that created the agency. Unfortunately, it has become too political.
Opportunities exist, but if Kansas is to be successful, it must marshal all of its assets in a well-focused, well-coordinated effort, using every dollar as efficiently as possible.
A consolidation of state economic development operations, particularly in the field of bioscience and in light of the manner in which agencies currently are being run, would increase the efficiency and focus of the operations and give closer attention to the justification of salaries in the range of $200,000 to more than $300,000 plus bonuses. There is a need for top-flight leaders who are just as interested in doing a top-superior job for Kansas as in polishing their own images, egos and bank accounts.
Hopefully, the governor’s effort for consolidation will merit the approval of state lawmakers.