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Archive for Sunday, August 14, 2011

Make it right

Kansas legislators need to move quickly to remedy the terrible precedent set by forcing local governments to fund services that are the state’s responsibility.

August 14, 2011

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City and county officials have taken the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation off the hook. Now, local taxpayers can only hope that the Kansas Legislature returns the favor.

Although members of the Lawrence City Commission and Douglas County Commission expressed displeasure over the precedent they were creating, they decided this week to commit $450,000 in local tax money for the next two years to maintain an SRS office in Lawrence. That completely covers the amount state SRS would have saved by closing the office. SRS officials earlier had said that closing the office would save the state about $450,000 per year, but had to revise that figure after learning that about half that amount was federal funds that simply would be lost by the state.

SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki told a Kansas Public Radio reporter Thursday that the local funding deal was “a win-win for everybody,” but it doesn’t really feel that way. Blackmail may be too strong a word, but by threatening to close the local SRS office, state officials put local governments in a near-impossible situation.

Using local tax dollars to take over a state responsibility sets a terrible precedent, but if local officials stood on principle, there would be significant social and economic costs for the county. There was the human cost to thousands of residents who depend on SRS services as well as the economic loss of 87 employees and the estimated loss of $2.4 million in food stamp assistance that wouldn’t be distributed in Lawrence.

Timing also was critical. City and county officials were told that SRS was preparing to move furniture out of the local offices. It appeared that the office closing would be over and done with before state legislators got around to looking into the situation. Once the office was closed, it would be extremely difficult to have it restored.

City and county officials made the decision they thought they had to make for the good of the community. Nonetheless, it could be a decision they live to regret.

SRS office closings across the state have gotten the attention of some state legislators who say they intended for administrative budget cuts included in the budget to take place at the state level, not at local offices. Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said Tuesday that she hoped legislators will consider the issue in the 2012 session and perhaps order funding to the Lawrence office to be restored. According to the local funding agreement, if that happens, the city and county are no longer obligated to continue their financial support.

In his KPR interview, Siedlecki made no reference to revisiting the situation for the next two years. After the local funding agreement runs out, he said, his office will “make good faith efforts to keep the office open” with additional funding from the Legislature.

We hope the Legislature won’t wait that long to act. City and county officials stepped into this situation because they believed the closing of the local office would be beyond the point of no return before legislators could take any action. They were backed into a corner and made the best decision they could — but that doesn’t make it OK for local taxpayers to fund this state responsibility.

State legislators need to review this situation as quickly as possible and make it right.

Comments

PROAMERICA 2 years, 8 months ago

Close the damn place down and leave my tax money alone. I became disabled a few years ago and get only SS Disibility and went to this local SRS and was turned down because I made too much money per month. My government check at that time was $940.00 per month. I just wanted some help with dental. I'll bet if I had been an illegal mexican I would have been offered dental help and cash and food stamps and a place to live free!!! Of course I'm and old white guy!

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jayhawxrok 2 years, 8 months ago

They aren't taking it over, just paying for the part of overhead that's the location, building, utilities, etc. Staff salaries and the expenses related to services provided are still SRS responsibility.

Of course if Brownback the zealot hadn't hired a bunch of out of state right wingers at high salaries we'd not be having this conversation at all.

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rockchalk1977 2 years, 8 months ago

More red meat rhetoric for the Lawrence liberal crazies. How long are you going to beat this dead horse? How about an editorial on Obama's approval hits an all-time low of 39%.

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overplayedhistory 2 years, 8 months ago

Wake up! what did you expect to happen with all the silly tea bagger no tax furry. Local taxes will go up, the burden is getting handed down to smaller government, that is what you people wanted, right! "smaller Government". Well small government is us and we have to pay. There was never a not have to pay scenario, all the silliness did was waste time and make the price to fix it cost more, and shift the burden of who is going to have to collect it from you.

If you think getting rid of SRS was an option, obviously the cops and the city don't see it that way, and I don't blame them.

Grow up! the last 30 years was a great child's dream and now it is over. Reagan was wrong!

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nativeson 2 years, 8 months ago

The lower part of the food chain was doing well in Lawrence. The City of Lawrence was able to maintain a flat mill levy for 4 years and produce a small surplus. Principals matter, and this is poor policy on the part of the City and the County. The is no chance the Kansas Legislature will restore this funding. Why should they when they find someone else to step into the responsibility? Now, if the City or the County have a tough time funding this amount in the future, they collectively become the bad guy in the equation. It is difficult to watch policy decisions at other levels of government impact have impact on your citizens, but it is impossible to fill the void left by the state and the federal government. Neither local body should try to accomplish this task.

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LJ Whirled 2 years, 8 months ago

Spot on. As things get tight higher up the food chain, the costs get shoved down, so the ones up top can claim to have balanced their budget. It's the same thing that has been happening less directly with unfunded mandates, and now it is coming out into the open.

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Phillbert 2 years, 8 months ago

"Using local tax dollars to take over a state responsibility sets a terrible precedent.."

Unfortunately it is a precedent that was set long ago by the Republican Legislature as it cut services and taxes at the state level, forcing the responsibility to deliver those services (and raise taxes to do so) off on cities and counties.

Just look at how local jails have become last-ditch mental health facilities after the state dismantled most of its mental health infrastructure. Or at how the state has pulled back from school funding, making locals pick that tab up too. The SRS office closure was just the most blatant of a long line of responsibility shirking actions.

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