Topeka About 50 people rallied Thursday in support of funding early childhood programs that are on the state chopping block.
“Even during the Great Depression, Kansas lawmakers found the resources and the political will to make sure our next generation would be equipped to lead our state in better economic times,” said Gary Brunk, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children.
Representatives of banking, law enforcement and the military spoke about the importance of providing children with the tools necessary to succeed in life.
The rally at the Dillon House, across the street from the Capitol, was part of a two-day, seven-city swing called the Kansas Promise Tour. The bus tour is designed to protect funding for such programs as Head Start, Family Preservation and Smart Start Kansas.
Kansas legislators return Wednesday for the wrap-up session facing an estimated $500 million budget hole. In the past year, the state budget has already been cut nearly $1 billion because of shrinking tax revenue.
Proposals before the Legislature could slash millions of dollars from early childhood programs.
Ed Gerhardt, a retired brigadier general in the Kansas Army National Guard, emphasized the importance of preparing the next generation by noting a new study that showed 75 percent of people ages 17 to 24 are unable to enlist in the military because they fail to graduate high school, have a criminal record or are physically unfit.
“It’s going to affect our military readiness and national security,” said Gerhardt of Topeka.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor and Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said early childhood programs help reduce crime and criminal justice costs.
Brunk said Kansas Action for Children supports increasing taxes to fix the budget. But the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, continued his stance against increasing state taxes.
The Appropriations Committee was meeting Thursday and today(fri) to revise a spending plan because of a downward revision in revenue.
Before the legislative break, Yoder pushed through a budget proposal that cut spending to schools by not replacing federal stimulus dollars. To replace the funding would require local property tax increases. The proposal also depended on an estimated $130 million in increased federal Medicaid funding, but that funding source, state senators said, is far from certain.
On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a proposed budget that would require $500 million in taxes, but the panel failed to push forward any plan to pay for the increased spending.