Archive for Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fiscal challenges pose tough choices for Kansas governor

July 2, 2011


First things first.

The headline on last week’s Saturday Column stated “Regents, KU Hospital need injection of vision, leadership.”

The Kansas Board of Regents part of the headline is accurate. However, the KU Hospital part should have read “KU medical school.”

This writer was using the KU Hospital as an example where leadership, vision, enthusiasm and excellent morale all make a huge difference between operations that are successful and those that never seem to get off the ground or take advantage of their opportunities.

Concerning the Board of Regents, it is hoped Gov. Sam Brownback soon will be announcing his nominees for three positions on the nine-member board. It is believed Brownback will use these appointments to send a message. He wants, and expects, the board to be far more aware of what is going on at the various campuses it oversees and to take positive action when necessary rather than to acknowledge there are troubles, problems and challenges but not have the backbone, courage or gumption to take action. This has happened far too often in recent years.

Speaking of Brownback, he and most every other governor in this country are facing severe fiscal challenges. In many states, new governors, such as Brownback, have inherited extremely serious problems. This, combined with the national debt situation and the federal government’s cutback on funding for a multitude of programs, have presented a “perfect storm” situation for Brownback and most of his fellow governors.

Whether Kansans like or dislike Brownback as an individual, they should realize he faces very tough alternatives. He and all other Kansas governors must keep revenue and spending in the proper balance so the state has a balanced budget at the end of each fiscal year.

The federal government and the Obama administration can print more money to meet needs, and members of Congress can approve lifting the lid on borrowing. This cannot be done at the state level. The governor and legislators must end the year with a balanced budget.

If citizens want more services, some way — taxes — must be found to pay for the services. Or they must find a way to cut some services to provide the cash for the new services.

In these times of unemployment, a bad housing market, rising costs and a struggling economy, most families are having to cut expenses in order to make ends meet. They do not want higher taxes.

Brownback has caught static for cutting funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Labor, education and probably many other areas. All of these programs, agencies and activities are terribly important for many individuals, but the alternative is to raise taxes or make sizable cuts in other state-aided or state-funded programs.

Some of Obama’s federal funding programs have come to an end and, if they are to be continued, money must be found at the state or local level.

Chances are, the governor will be calling for further reductions or cutbacks unless the state and national economy improve. At the present time, Brownback is looked to as being uncaring and unsympathetic to the needs of Kansas. Too many people refuse to acknowledge he has to play the cards he has been dealt. He can’t have the state treasurer print more money.

In a way, Lawrence officials are facing a similar situation. More residents want more or improved services, but the only way to provide these services is to raise taxes or eliminate other programs.

It’s so easy to spend but far more difficult and painful to call for cuts.

States have to live within their means, while the federal government can print more money and do not have to operate with a balanced budget.

All elected officials, particularly those who will be up for election in 2012, face a moment of truth: Do they call for higher taxes and go on spending, or do they have the courage to curtail spending and make painful cuts in programs that have become bloated in order to try to buy friends and votes?


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

There's nothing "tough" about this for Sam. The rich say we're broke, so the poor must pay. That's good enough for Sam.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

Find out what merrill & bozo support and do the opposite. That'll almost certainly be the best course for the residents of Kansas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

I think you should be nice to your dog. But you already knew that. Is that why you kick it at least once a day?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

Or, if you wish to think for yourself, turn off Faux "News" and the AM radio propaganda stations and take a good look at the wonderful improvement to our country the right wing philosophy of defunding government and concentrating money in the hands of their campaign contributors has brought us.

Here's a choice the current right wing puppet in the Governor's chair has made: funding completion of the SLT which will be mired in litigation for the next several years, and then claiming funding shortfalls force the closure of the Lawrence SRS office which will certainly mean diminished level of services to its clients.

A tough choice? Or a manufactured crisis to achieve a desired result?

What do you, dear reader, think of the morality of the choice made?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

We already know, BAA, that you cannot acknowledge the immorality of choosing to pave a road over helping a fellow citizen, but thanks for the attempt to cloud the issue with baseless distraction.

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

Well, I asked a question. Interesting that in your reality that means I "clud" the issues with endless theories.

And what, exactly, have you fixed? You've resorted to a number of childish ploys to avoid addressing the point of my comment and question. Do you think you've convinced anyone of the validity of your position?

And are we to understand from all the obfuscation that you agree with the Governor's choice? If so, at least have the moral courage and intellectual honesty to stand up and say, "Yes, roads are more important than helping my fellow citizens."

overthemoon 6 years, 10 months ago

Or one might want to look at real evidence of the motives and missions of Fox "News" from the time before there was a Fox 'News" direct from the archives at the NIxon Library.

weeslicket 6 years, 10 months ago

this writer thinks it's odd that the editorialist's writing is printed in the state and regional news section instead of the editorial section.

what a yertle

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps journalists, not heirs, should be the ones producing the news content.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

This writer thinks that when you own the newspaper, you can pretend anything you say is news.

sciencegeek 6 years, 10 months ago

The state is in dire straits financially, as are many others. Ten years of business tax breaks haven't helped. A logical option would be to rescind some of these millions in breaks for the select few, but that isn't even considered. The excuse given is that this is how to "create jobs". Yeah, well, that's been the mantra of the Republican party for years, and it has been shown repeatedly that it's not true. But they perpetuate the lie because they and their supporters are the ones reaping the benefits!

This is all about philosophy, people. The Haves don't believe in "entitlements", i.e. anything that benefits the Have-Nots. That's why they attack schools, the poor, elderly, disabled, and unemployed. Anyone who is paid with tax money, like teachers, state employees, Medicaid recipients, is just sucking dry their bank accounts, and so must be discarded. If you want to know their playbook, just check out the Americans for Prosperity and the John Birch Society.

One more thing--about these "faith-based initiatives". That refers only to THEIR interpretation of faith, which means "people just like us". If they were the Christians they sell themselves as, they'd read Mathew 25:45-46: "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting."

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually, isn't ScienceGeek just pointing out the hypocrisy of those who proclaim (loudly) their supposed Christianity?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

I find your superstitious claptrap highly persuasive. This one post of mindless drivel has changed my life.

Thank you, BAA, for now your manufactured and contrived truth is mine as well as yours. I will be eternally grateful for at least the next ten minutes.

gkerr 6 years, 10 months ago

Science Geek, Why is it that those states which have by your standards enlightened leadership and seemingly more humane politicians in control are the very states that are having a debt crisis? States like Illinois, and until recently New Jersey, New York, California, Wisconsin until just last election, Minnesota with farm labor controlled state legislature for years, etc.. are in deep trouble. On the other hand states with more blighted leadership of a heartless type, like Texas and North Dakota are growing jobs faster than all others in this country and are far more prosperous. Why do you suppose nations in Europe, especially those with the most generous social net and generous public sectors are on the verge of bankruptcy with debt that cannot be repaid and is only being repaid by more parsimonious nations to prevent default of the entire system?

Why do you suppose that we are in a debt crisis on the Federal level here in America? Deficit spending has been going up exponentially since 1900. The Federal debt was 2 billion in 1900, 25 billion by 1920, 257 billion by 1950, 7,700 billion by 2005, while it is 15,000 billion today. Reliable estimates are that based on legislation already enacted, meaning promises and commitments already made by our politicians, and revenues anticipated over the course of the next several decades we will be 61,000 billion to 100,000 billion in debt just on the Federal level by 2070. But you say increase taxes on the wealthy, make them pay more which already exceeds a far greater share of their earnings than the percentage paid by average Americans. I say if we tax more so we can spend more what will be left to provide capital to the productive private sector from whence all jobs and capital and wealth are created in the first place? In 1900 government spending amounted to 7% of GDP, it was 20% by 1930, 37% by 1990, and 43% by 2010. All data shows that as nations tax and spend more and take more of GDP to fund government that the nations economic growth always falls after a certain threshold is reached. That threshold has been long surpassed in the US, Europe, Japan, and the other developed nations. At a spending to GDP of about 20 % more spending diminishes economic growth and job creation- not just here in America but everywhere. It seems to be a basic law of economics. Sustained command economies always fail as Russia and the Marxist nations failed rapidly as they were all in on the concept. Europe and USA are on brink of failing now and their tax and spend regimes cannot and will not be sustained. They must and will fail just as apples fall from trees. What should we do? Keep taxing and spending or change course? Gkerr

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 10 months ago

Excuse me?? You refer to Texas (and North Dakota) as "growing jobs faster than all others in this country and are far more prosperous."

Are you truly not aware that Texas has just 9 times the population of Kansas...but more than FIFTY times the deficit of Kansas??? Or that Texas' economy has tanked in the last 9 months?

And as far as growing jobs faster? Texas leads the nation in the percent of people working for minimum wage. Should we really want to emulate that sort of job growth???

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 9 months ago

If an employer can't afford to pay more than a living wage, they have no right employing anyone.

Robert Schehrer 6 years, 10 months ago

While it is true that State of Kansas and local governments must annually balance their so often called budgets, it does not mean that they do not have debt, created by deficit spending. The difference between how the State of Kansas and local governments budget vs. the federal government is how they treat most of their capital spending. For example KDOT issues bonds (deficit spending) to build new highways. The state issued general obligatiion bonds to finance the renovation of the capital building. Again, deficit spending. Locally, the Lawrence school financed most of the improvements to the high schools sports facilities by either issuing bonds or entering into long-term leases. Once again deficit spending. On the other hand, the federal government lumps all of it expenditures into one budget. Thus, when the federal government buys new military equipment or improves federal highways, etc. it is considered an expenditure at the time it is purschased. So, you cannot just look at the operating budgets of Kansas and local governments and conclude that they don't have deficit spending in any one year.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 10 months ago

You would expect our town's most prominent editorial writer to sometimes possess the ability to analyze issues a little deeper than simply being an apologist for his favorite political party.

That is the difference between leaders and followers.

But thanks for another" unbiased" opinion anyway.

Scott Tichenor 6 years, 10 months ago

Yet there's always a flood of corporate welfare for big oil and corporate interests. Kansans are being robbed blind right before their very eyes and Brownie is leading the charge. Koch Brothers must be realizing their wildest dreams.

Jimo 6 years, 10 months ago

"He and all other Kansas governors must keep revenue and spending in the proper balance so the state has a balanced budget at the end of each fiscal year."

No. If you misdiagnose the problem, you're unlikely to stumble upon the solution.

Kansas Governors (and elected officials) must find ways to come up with the revenue sufficient to pay for the spending so that the state meets its obligations to its citizens and can compete economically with other states (and nations!).

Wishing away obligations or refusing to invest in infrastructure or education worsen the situation and make future choices "tough." That is what takes "backbone, courage or gumption" - not kicking the can down the road to let someone else pay $2 in a decade what would have cost only $1 today.

Misdiagnosing the problems, as Mr. Simons does, just guarantees that Kansas falls further and further behind.

Brian Laird 6 years, 10 months ago

Given that the vast majority of the water in California falls on Northern California and the vast majority is used in Southern California, Southern California might want to rethink this one.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

This writer thinks that the Arts Commission funding was already in the balanced budget and Brownback cut it - and the jobs it creates - out of spite. I don't care if you belong to the same political party or think he's made tough decisions in other areas, but don't ignore the facts. His decision was fiscally unwise and bad for the state, and there's no blaming previous administrations about it. This is all on him.

Jan Rolls 6 years, 10 months ago

He needs to cut the breaks for the kochheads and other big business tax breaks. He hopes that will help him step stone to washington but it won't and it won't help him get reelected. Even the dummies that voted for him have caught on to him. He's killing them also.

vuduchyld 6 years, 10 months ago

Just anybody aware of a website or resource that has a Brownback timeline?

Seems to me that he has pulled one stunt right after another:

Closing the Lawrence SRS office and others (announcement on Friday afternoon)--and soon after creating a dozen new high-level admin positions Laying off around 80 people from Dept of ___ Commerce, maybe? (announcement on Friday afternoon) New abortion clinic regulations De-funding Kansas ARts Commission, even after the budget for it was approved by the legislature ...and the list goes on

But he does SO many things so regularly that I can only think of the most recent few examples. Is there any kind of website dedicated to creating a chronicle of the madness? It amazes me that the rest of the country (except for Rachel Maddow?) just seems to ignore one of the most crushingly conservative governors in the history of the US. Even that Walker clown in Wisconsin is practically a liberal next to Sam.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

That would be great. If only we had a website dedicated to open government.... Oh wait, that website is Koch's little front group. But seriously, that sounds like a great project, and I hope someone is tackling it. if not, start a blog and tell us where it's hosted.

notanota 6 years, 10 months ago

That would be great. If only we had a website dedicated to open government.... Oh wait, that website is Koch's little front group. But seriously, that sounds like a great project, and I hope someone is tackling it. if not, start a blog and tell us where it's hosted.

overthemoon 6 years, 10 months ago

The 'Freaky Friday ' list of actions announced late on get lost in the weekend chatter.

uncleandyt 6 years, 10 months ago

Speaking of " a moment of truth ", I propose a Lie Tax. Newspapers and radio and TV media can be charged a small fee for each letter in each word of each piece of misleading information. We'll have surplusses in just a few weeks.

aryastark1984 6 years, 9 months ago

Difficult choices? Really? It seems to me like his only difficulty was to decide how to selectively target cuts that offer no political risk.

  1. Cut the arts- those artsy fartsy people vote Dem anyway. So, no loss.
  2. Cut SRS in Lawrence- Marginalized people don't vote in high numbers anyway, and hey if you can selectively target "Liberal Lawrence" you get major style points from your base, who hate us on general principle. So no loss and potential political gain.
  3. Cut K-12 education-You would think this would hurt them since cuts to education hurt KS families (the people that they pretend to care about) , but since the end goal is to destroy public education so that they can justify vouchers for private schools, it is probably worth the risk. Oh and you mitigate some of the risk by having the Koch bros. take out advertisements containing grossly misleading information about school budgets and reserve funds.

My heart breaks for poor Sam.

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