Virtually every proposal to cut money from the state budget is bad news for someone, but one provision of a budget-cutting plan released on Friday would be a great benefit for the entire state.
On Friday, Democrats in the Kansas House unveiled a plan to cut $1.37 million from the Legislature’s own budget. Their plan includes cutting legislative pay by 5 percent, delaying a legislative computer upgrade for two years and cutting in half the franking privileges that pay for mailings legislators use to communicate with their constituents.
All of those seem like reasonable cuts that force legislators to share some of the pain that is being inflicted across Kansas by cuts in state funding. The biggest cut in the legislative budget, however, involved a policy decision that the state has put off for too long.
One of the justifications legislative leaders have offered for their increased budget was the need for the Legislature to start gearing up for the 2012 redistricting process. The plan released Friday sidesteps that expenditure by calling for creation of a nonpartisan commission to redraw political boundaries. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, estimated the move would save the Legislature $600,000.
It’s not surprising that it is the minority party in the Legislature that would propose a nonpartisan redistricting commission. However, proposals for such a commission have attracted bipartisan support in the past. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt has co-sponsored such legislation.
The financial benefits, combined with the democratic principles it would promote, provide a powerful argument for such an independent redistricting commission. Other states, including Iowa, have successfully initiated similar commissions to take over the politically charged redistricting process. Having state legislators redraw districts for themselves and U.S. House districts can be a powerful distraction for legislators as well as promoting districts based on political constituencies rather than true communities of interest.
The eve of the next redistricting process isn’t the ideal time to consider such a proposal, but as legislators look at ways to trim their own and the state’s budget, it’s an idea worth considering.