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Opinion

Opinion

SRS closing has political tone

July 27, 2011

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The announced closure of the Lawrence Social and Rehabilitation Services office has been both a significant blow to our community and a clear indication that politics is far from absent in budget decisions coming from Topeka. It must be disappointing to every citizen of Lawrence and Douglas County that the office will close and that SRS employees will be forced to relocate to offices in other cities.

There are many problems with this decision. First, of course, is the very basic question of why the Lawrence office was targeted. Gov. Sam Brownback and SRS chief Siedlecki have been quite clear that reducing the statewide SRS budget by $1 million is a high priority. But what has not been clear at all is why the Lawrence SRS office must be closed to provide $400,000 of that amount. As the Journal-World has reported, the closure comes at a time when the Mr. Siedlecki has increased the SRS administrative budget by almost $200,000 for two high level appointments in the agency’s Topeka headquarters.

Neither he nor the governor has indicated why the Lawrence office had to be totally eliminated rather than simply downsized and the shortfall made up by similar partial cuts to SRS offices in other parts of the state. Nor has Siedlecki or Brownback discussed the quite pertinent fact that about half of the savings gained from closing the Lawrence SRS office will be offset by the loss of federal funding brought in by that office.

Finally, it’s hard to imagine that the governor or the SRS chief is unaware that the closure of the Lawrence SRS office will force the county and city to allocate funds to other local agencies to help compensate for the loss of SRS services. In other words, Lawrence and Douglas County taxpayers will end up paying more in local taxes, an increase that not only will offset any tax reductions derived from the closure, but actually increase local taxes to the point that the local increases exceed the state-level reductions.

So why is this happening? To my mind the answer is clear. Lawrence is, without question, the last politically liberal outpost in Kansas. Lawrence and Douglas County show up on political maps as a speck of liberal blue in a sea of conservative red. Is it surprising in a state where the Legislature is overwhelmingly conservative, as is the governor, that when budget cuts are to be made, they fall most harshly on those liberal areas? This is the nature of politics. It is, in a sense, reverse patronage. But is it a good idea politically or socially?

I think the answer to this question is “no.” Reducing state services to areas dominated by minority political viewpoints is extremely dangerous. First, it sets a precedent that may someday backfire. Although Brownback is a political conservative, Kansas has frequently elected moderate Democrats or Republicans to fill the gubernatorial chair. By using agency budget reductions to punish political opponents, Brownback sets the stage for his successors to do the same.

Second, neither the governor nor the Legislature should forget that while the majority of Lawrence voters may not share their politics or support their election campaigns, there is a strong Republican conservative minority in Lawrence and Douglas County. These folks, too, are being punished by the cuts now being made.

In the end, I would suggest that cuts to administrative agencies should be made in a politically neutral way, based not on politics but on proven economic efficiency and social needs. By all means, Governor, hand out patronage jobs to your supporters. Lend your authority and prestige to legislation you feel comfortable with. But when it comes to budget cutting, let’s try to keep politics out of it.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.

Comments

grammaddy 3 years, 4 months ago

Dud! Ya think? 3rd largest office in the state. Doesn't help that we're the only "Blue" county. Brownback didn't lose any votes here.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

The proof will be in the Governor's pudding come next election!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 4 months ago

We are all witness to the shambles in the debt ceiling debate in Washington that has been caused by the shameful behavior of voters in electing the extremist rightwingnut congressmen to the U.S. Congess. We have the same problem here in Kansas, voters who have been snockered into believing the lies and agenda of the Republican Terrorist Party have put this known entity into the governer's office and he has not performed anywhere near the expectations that were fabricated. Anyone who still believes that the Republican Terrorist Party has the best interestes of job creation, full employment, commerce, industry, or tourism is clearly misguided and out of touch. The primary goal of all of these people is to get elected at all costs, without any regard for the havoc that they create with their lies and fabrications, and to pummel and punish the opposite political views. This has happened before. But it would seem that the lessons of history have been ignored by the clueless and bumbling voting majority in Kansas.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

It's called the Chicago Way. Surely you've heard of it before.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 4 months ago

Like you got over the Holcomb decision, right? What happened with that, anyway? Do you know?

Gotta love the right wing's logic here. Do not question our authority...

Ceee 3 years, 4 months ago

There is a difference between patronage jobs and basic services. Would Kansans accept that the State could stop contributing to repairing roads in Lawrence? How about closing our DMV office 50 % of the work week to save money? SRS work is a basic service that all Kansans deserve.

Lindsey Buscher 3 years, 4 months ago

Poor example.

It was not a political decision but and environmental one. And then the moderate Democrat that replaced Sebelius compromised and set the stage to permit at least one of the two proposed plants.

Compromise. That is the operative word here. We are not likely to see a reversal of the SRS closure decision because it would mean compromise, a dirty dirty word to neo-conservatards.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Of course the Holcomb decision was a political decision, made by people concerned with the health and welfare of the whole planet and the vast majority of people (and millions of other species) who live on it.

It was reversed by people concerned only for the investments of a very small number of people, at the expense of billions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Care to give us your final solution for that very small number of people?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

Not as ridiculous as attempting to compare the well-financed coal industry (and politically connected, too, thanks to their generous political donations) with poor children, the elderly and the disabled.

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 4 months ago

This is the letter that I have been waiting to see in this paper.

Thank you for writing it.

SDTPlant 3 years, 4 months ago

Sanctimonious neovaticonites! Glad I've kept my backpack-I may become a refugee. Thanks again.

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

....and the majority of s.r.s. recipients will end up moving closer to another s.r.s. office in another town like they've done when s.r.s. has closed other offices, meanwhile the county government wants to purchase land for a homeless shelter for the downtown before s.r.s. closes.....which is not the smartest thing to do right now....since a lot of the homeless will be moving away soon.

the bottom line, closing s.r.s. is a cost savings for the state. no politics involved, unless you're a pinko commie who loves spending other peoples tax money.

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

it's bozo's covert way of calling me a nazi, when i'm not even close. it's been a few years, so nice to see you....it's scott isn't it?

monkeyhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Really, what a racist comment. Do you always stereotype African Americans as "high on meth"? You should be ashamed.

50YearResident 3 years, 4 months ago

I knew Brownback had an agenda, but I thought it was only his ambition to become President of the United States through his position of Govenor of Kansas after his Senate plan failed. Now I see his real goal is to install his views of "Saving the World" through his religious views. Maybe he thinks he is God's choice to to get the job done. Whatever it is, Brownback is making Kansas the laughing stock of the United States. It was a big mistake to elect him and will take many other Kansas Govenors to set Kansas right again. SAD!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

"What’s the difference between what Sam Brownback wants and what Muslim extremists want? Nothing."

I disagree. There are countless superficial differences.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Neoconservatives only cut services not spending. According to Rep Paul Davis the savings went back into high dollar salaries at the State House.

And HealthWave is in the final process of being "privatized" so we're told. Which means the medical insurance industry is jumping up and down with joy. So much for saving tax dollars.

Private insurance requires more money to operate not to mention the CEO salaries,shareholders,golden parachutes and campaign contributions OUR tax dollars will now be supporting.

When the private insurance provider wants more tax dollars for their services it will just happen to be in the budget. Have no fear the cost will increase and medical care will be become more difficult to obtain.

Corporate welfare aka socialism really stinks!

Flap Doodle 3 years, 4 months ago

I'd swear that I just saw this exact same text on another thread on this award-winning website.

somedude20 3 years, 4 months ago

Brownback me baby one more time....thank you, may I have another! Sammy, as a younger man, I was a sculptor, a painter, and a musician. There was just one problem: I wasn't very good. As a matter of fact, I was dreadful. I finally came to the frustrating conclusion that I had taste and style, but not talent. I knew my limitations. We all have our limitations, Sammy. Fortunately, I discovered that taste and style were commodities that people desired. Sammy, what I am saying is: know your limitations. You are a moron.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

monkeyhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Allow me to clarify if you are addressing me, as if you deserve it after the personal attack. Of course you could be referring to bozo, which would always be appropriate.

lunacydector is African American and was accused of being high on meth by Isense. I find that repugnant.

Do you get it now or shall I do winky faces just for you? BTW, you are pretty much irrelevant since your massive posting history is almost exclusively negative. Perhaps you are a returning banned entity in the ilk of Sven, but at any rate, for sure another miserable Lawrence lib who gets off attacking people on some worthless Ks. forum. It puts a thrill up your leg, doesn't it?

gudpoynt 3 years, 4 months ago

i believe the meth reference was not because the commenter may be black, but rather because the comment was inane and immature. Anyone reading it can understand that.

Are you on crack or something?

yourworstnightmare 3 years, 4 months ago

This is just the beginning. We should expect more of the "reverse patronage" from Brownback in the future.

My guess is it will first appear through the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

We shall see if KU continues to receive a large amount of the funds, or if it moves elsewhere, say to small ehtanol, ag, and energy companies in greater Kansas.

Jean Robart 3 years, 4 months ago

Wow! You're right on top of things, aren't you ;-)

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