Archive for Sunday, January 10, 2010

Survival strategy

As state leaders tackle their annual budget negotiations, vision and dreams will have to take a back seat to practicality.

January 10, 2010


Proposing a state budget often is an opportunity for the Kansas governor to set visionary or lofty goals for the state.

Not this year. Instead of setting visionary budget priorities for the state, Gov. Mark Parkinson is being asked to present a survival strategy. In what is expected to be his one and only state budget proposal, Parkinson will be trying to figure out a way to meet the state’s basic obligations to public schools, higher education, Medicaid, corrections and other services while working within the constraint of a Legislature that continues to shun about any effort to increase state revenue by raising taxes or dropping tax exemptions.

State Budget Director Duane Goossen and his staff no doubt are working overtime this weekend to finish the budget that will be presented in conjunction with the governor’s State of the State message on Monday. They must deal not only with the budget year that starts next July but with a shortfall approaching $400 million in the current year’s budget. It will not be an easy challenge.

Parkinson already has said he will not endorse further cuts to public schools, higher education or state prisons. Those areas already have been cut to the bone. Because the state’s economy is unlikely to rebound quickly enough to maintain funding in those areas, Parkinson’s budget proposals almost certainly will include some tax proposals. He has said he will consider raising the state tax on cigarettes and eliminating selected tax exemptions.

Neither of those proposals has gotten favorable responses from legislative leaders who are firmly against any state tax increases. It’s hard to see how they will be able to stand by that conviction this year without doing serious damage to the state. Among other factors, funding for education must be maintained at a certain level to ensure the state can hang onto federal funding that currently is shoring up school budgets

Last week, two state senators — Democrat Laura Kelly of Topeka and Republican John Vratil of Overland Park — announced their plans to introduce legislation to create a “rainy day” fund for the state. Establishing such a fund may help the state in the future, but it won’t do much to ease the current budget negotiations. Nonetheless, Parkinson lauded their idea, saying “This bipartisan effort demonstrates the progress that can be made when politics are set aside for sound policies.”

The governor added, “I hope to see more of this type of leadership in the Legislature as we approach a session in which there are no more easy solutions to the challenges facing our state.”

We share that hope. Only by working together will the governor and legislators be able to find the best financial solutions for the state.


anon1958 8 years, 4 months ago

More importantly, ignorance will have to take a back seat to reason. However with this legislature if ignorance is in the backseat then there will not be anyone in the drivers seat at the front.

job4mike6 8 years, 4 months ago

This is a worthwhile topic and a very poorly argued editorial. The piece seems to support raising revenue and creation of a rainy day fund. I believe you would have done your readers a better service by discussing how the government will shrink--as it must due to a poor economy. if you insist on raising more revenue, what do you preserve and what do you pare back in the government structure? What sources of increased government revenue does the LJW support? Other states have cut social services, raised college tuition, furloughed state workers, and Hawaii can't even find the funds to hold an out-of-cycle election for the US House! What does the LJW think of other states' methods to address fiscal gaps? Which should Kansas avoid or adopt?

Education is not a monolith. In higher education we have numerous luxuries and duplications in the programs of the public university system. I suggest we cut some of those luxuries. There is an over supply of lawyers in the USA--why not let other states or private universities pay to educate new lawyers? Close or sell the KU Law school! Musicology anyone? It is not clear to me that musicology (study of the cultural significance and history of music) is a subject area closely related to the needs of the Kansas economy. Yes we need music and fine arts educators--but music historians? Not in this economic crisis. The hard choices need to be made and an across-the-board reduction in contributions to educator retirement and health insurance accounts is a poor choice that incorrectly implies all higher educators have equal relevance to creating a better economy. I suggest the legislature cut higher education in degree programs in law and esoteric liberal arts. We have too many litigators and plenty of lawyers to administer our justice system. We can pare back the abstruse or arcane fields in liberal arts far removed from the marketplace. It is private commerce that pays the bills and creates the broad base for government revenues--not musicologists.

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