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Archive for Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Audit of marriage incentive disputed

September 28, 2011

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— Conservative Republican legislators were critical Tuesday of an audit of Kansas benefit programs that looked for but found few disincentives that might keep people from getting married.

Republicans raised questions during a Legislative Post Audit Committee hearing in Topeka about the report, which concluded that eligibility requirements and regulations had little, if any, effect on clients’ decisions to get married.

“Our analysis yielded mixed results across programs, and frequently mixed results within a program,” Joe Lawhon said. “In some situations marriage mattered. In other situations it did not.”

The report looked at eligibility requirements for 36 state benefit programs, including temporary assistance and veteran programs. It found that 29 areas did have income criteria that had the potential to discourage marriage.

However, during questioning of program staff and clients, auditors learned there was little information as to whether eligibility for services actually caused people to avoid getting married.

A glance at marriage

The audit is the first legislative report to look at marriage since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in January. As part of his administration’s focus on stimulating the economy, the conservative former U.S. senator has put an emphasis on encouraging more marriages in Kansas and fewer divorces and cohabitations.

Supporters argue that creating family stability reduces poverty and increases earning potential of Kansas residents. Opponents of the governor’s plan question the focus on social issues and religious overtones of the message, including intent to increase faith-based initiatives.

During Tuesday’s hearing, conservatives questioned the validity of what they called “subjective” responses from agency staff and clients contained in the audit.

“Sometimes the way you ask questions can have a big effect on the responses you get,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, a Shawnee Republican.

She suggested that auditors go back and rephrase their questions “with a different premise.” She said program staff and participants should be asked that if the eligibility criteria were to be changed, would they consider it be an incentive for marriage.

Rep. John Grange, an El Dorado Republican and chairman of the committee, suggested those questions be the subject of a future audit, if necessary.

A ‘mixed bag’

Lawhon said auditors tried to get as many responses from across Kansas, but it was difficult under privacy laws to get some information. Lawhon noted that 31 staff members in two agencies and 23 clients agreed to be interviewed for the audit.

He also said some clients simply refused to talk to state officials about their marital status or decisions.

The overall results of the audit, he said, were a “mixed bag” with no conclusive results that program rules were hindering marriage.

“If we would have interviewed more staff, we would have gotten a larger mixed bag,” he said.

Sen. Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican, said the audit shed light on the issue, but agreed it was incomplete and unscientific because of the small pool of interviews.

One Democrat said the lack of cooperation was likely because people simply didn’t want to talk to state officials about such matters.

“People don’t want people prying into their own personal business,” said Sen. Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.

Responding to the findings, Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Rob Siedlecki said either the auditors should have made more effort to interview additional staff and more clients or that portion of the audit should have been dropped.

Siedlecki said the audit’s finding that there were disincentives to getting married in eligibility requirements in 29 of the 36 programs was not surprising.

“The audit validates the department’s internal findings and supports the policy changes to eligibility criteria to reduce those disincentives,” he said.

SRS recently announced a series of eligibility changes aimed at treating applicants the same whether they are married, single or in other relationships. The changes include counting all household income in determining benefits, including live-in boyfriends or girlfriends and illegal immigrants.

Siedlecki said the changes, including others that would require clients to look for work while on temporary assistance, could save his department as much as $20 million that could be reinvested in agency programs.

SRS also has applied for a federal grant that would offer marriage counseling and related information to clients. The program is part of the administration’s goal to encourage marriage, reduce the number of divorces in Kansas and reduce childhood poverty through stable families.

Comments

Gandalf 3 years, 2 months ago

SRS also has applied for a federal grant that would offer marriage counseling and related information to clients. The program is part of the administration’s goal to encourage marriage, reduce the number of divorces in Kansas and reduce childhood poverty through stable families.

Stable employment at decent wages and benefits would go a long way to encourage stable marriages.

But brownie and seigheil would rather invade the bedrooms,

somebodynew 3 years, 2 months ago

+1 These guys just don't have a clue. They wonder why people didn't want to talk to a State Agency about their personal lives.

CountyResident 3 years, 2 months ago

Conservative Republications didn't like the results they got from the audit, so they suggested that they do the audit again. I guess that means to keep doing it until you get the results we want. Kind of sounds like their position on global warming.

Now SRS has applied for a federal grant that would offer marriage counseling. One of the reasons the Brownback administration gave for not taking federal funds to help implement the Affordable Care Act, was the federal government may not have the funds available. Funny, I guess that's no longer a concern here.

1983Hawk 3 years, 2 months ago

Absolutely hilarious and entirely predictable. If the facts don't fit in with our preconceived dogma, just shoot the messenger.

jafs 3 years, 2 months ago

Reminds me of the school funding issue - do a study (at taxpayer expense), and when you don't like the results, don't pay any attention to them.

What a waste!

mloburgio 3 years, 2 months ago

Siedlecki is divorced and his children live in new york, worry about your own marriage.

chootspa 3 years, 2 months ago

It's ok for rich people to be divorced. It's not like he's living off taxpayer money.... oh wait.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

"The changes include counting all household income in determining benefits, including live-in boyfriends or girlfriends and illegal immigrants." "Siedlecki said the changes, including others that would require clients to look for work while on temporary assistance..."

These requirements have been in effect for quite some time, part of the overhaul changes made during the Clinton administration. What's to change? Are they reinventing the wheel so they can take "Republican credit" or something?

jonas_opines 3 years, 2 months ago

"As part of his administration’s focus on stimulating the economy, the conservative former U.S. senator has put an emphasis on encouraging more marriages in Kansas and fewer divorces and cohabitations."

Bwahahahahahahahahaha.

/Oh wait, you're serious? Let me laugh even harder then.

Getaroom 3 years, 2 months ago

Sure, bring out the Gestapo again with properly worded questions. Another example of the The Inquisitor General, Brownbackward and his Christian Soldiers, in lock-step, out doing their masters bidding. He should have just hired the Phelps clan to go door to door and ferret out the evil doers once and for all and the Phelps bullies like to gather anyway.
Family values you know.
Now that The State did not get the answers they wanted, will more birds fall dead from the sky because there might be some gays in the lot? It is doubtful that being scientific was ever an intentional factor in this "study" because, as you know, science has no place in Biblical Law. Interesting how applying the power of BIG Intrusive government works when it suits "the Leaders" purpose.

The ultimate answer: Pray for "marriage" and get it done, or ELSE! That is "the message" 1983Hawk. With this "messenger" it is always: his way or the unmaintained infrastructure known as, a highway.
So what is it that they really wanted to know? Are you married in the eyes of the Lord? Are you gay and if so why have you not been exorcised out of it by now so you can qualify for state services? (Get in line, the Bachmanns are at your service and want some of this SRS money too). Are you living under one roof and not married in the eyes of the Lord. Are there any unmarried, unrelated, godless, scamming individuals living under one roof and seeking already limited state resources?
Gee, I guess it is all in how you ask the questions after all - duh!

Onlyifitsadryshelter 3 years, 2 months ago

Word on the streets is that Brownback is pushing for a new law that basically says that if you get Christian counseling before marriage you can get a break on your marriage license to the tune of $25. He is also pushing a "marry yourself up out of poverty" agenda. Does anyone know who is actually reporting on these ridiculous initiatives? I'd like to be fully informed.

And BTW, I AM a Christian and still think this guy is a TOTAL IDIOT! Don't hold his actions against all of us!!!!

pusscanthropus 3 years, 2 months ago

Which baby mama should the father of several children marry? Which baby-daddy should the mom of several children marry? I see this everyday, so I know what I'm talking about.

Brownback (and all of us) should be more concerned with the disproportionate numbers of children being born to uneducated parents compared to their educated counterparts. This is already a huge drain on society and it's getting worse.

chootspa 3 years, 2 months ago

Access to family planning services would go a long way to address that issue, but heaven knows that's not in the cards.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 2 months ago

Access to a different set of values would go a long way to address that issue, but heaven knows that's not in the cards. But to show that I'm not just being cute here, by that I mean there are countless numbers of different sets of values. It's not either Brownback's way or some far left's ideological set of values. We need to explore options to the ideas that only produce abortions by the millions or baby mommas and baby daddies by the millions. Or combinations of ideas. The deal is that both (pusscanthropus) and (chootspa) are right.

love2bike 3 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe that we spent tax money to commission a study. Surprised that they didn't ask LPA to ask single people - without children and/or not living with someone - why they haven't married. Why does Brownback seem to think everyone needs to be "married" and then not promoting gay marriage. Just asking the question.....:) Maybe we should allow singles to deduct online dating services, or better yet, allow singles to claim a "head of household" status on their income taxes as it costs me just as much (if not more) to maintain my house as it does a married couple.

deec 3 years, 2 months ago

Or maybe they can hire another of brownie's cronies to go through all the applications in the whole state for some randomly chosen week/month and tally up all the single vs. married recipients. I'm pretty sure that info is already required on the application. That ought to burn up a few more million bucks and keep it out of the hands of the undeserving poor. End sarcasm.

love2bike 3 years, 2 months ago

After some of his more recent decisions, not really sure if this is too far from the truth. This used to be a pretty decent state to live in....as a lifelong Kansan, not sure how much longer I want to stay.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 2 months ago

I'm glad we have leadership in Kansas that actually cares about family issues! We need to start looking at these issues to see what can be done to reinforce traditional family structure and help us begin to turn this ship of state around!

tolawdjk 3 years, 2 months ago

So you are okay with government intruding into your life? Interesting.

jonas_opines 3 years, 2 months ago

Only as long as it forces Other people to change and not themselves, in all likelihood.

love2bike 3 years, 2 months ago

Think government can do that? Not government's role. That responsibility resides with the family. Next, the legislature will start fining families for not having dinner together. Get real. This state has deteriorated significantly in the past year. I am ashamed to admit that I live in Kansas.

Mark Thompson 3 years, 2 months ago

We have plenty of leadership in Kansas caring about family issues - they're called clergy, counselors, social workers, teachers, .... The "leadership" of which you speak, should be intent on addressing the economic issues plaguing the state - as was promised to those who voted for them.

ebyrdstarr 3 years, 2 months ago

I just want to know when SRS is going to start having mixers for all the singles. And will there be a match-making service as well? Or will they just go straight to arranging marriages?

Kirk Larson 3 years, 2 months ago

In these tough economic times, maybe fathers will just auction off their daughters to the highest bidder. Free market and all.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 2 months ago

That would fit right in with Old Testament, Biblical stuff, Cappy, and make Brownback happy as a puppy with two tails.

chootspa 3 years, 2 months ago

Since we're being biblical, we should also reintroduce polygamy. That would allow even more people to be married!

Jimo 3 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the best "study" would be to document social conventions in high-marriage, low-divorce states like New Hampshire and Massachusetts and see 'what works.'

But wait. There's no point to that. Those are both 'gay marriage' states. Ideology says: can't work.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 2 months ago

I just surfed a little. The headlines from the U.S. Census Bureau suggested that divorce rates were higher in states that higher marriage rates. Makes sense. From the data I looked at, Massachusetts had a 2.2% divorce rate/1,000 and New Hampshire had 3.9%. Kansas slipped in the middle at 3.3%. The last year data was available was 2004. And I don't know what year gay marriages became available in those states, but I suspect it's too recent to be relevant.
Anyway, if what you're saying is we should seek out what works, I would suggest we look beyond our borders. Look at other countries. Who has high marriage, low divorce rates. And also produces low abortions and low out of wedlock children. Low poverty coupled with high education. And free and democratic societies that have great amounts of diversity and a more liberal immigration policy. And a prosperous society or at least as prosperous as our own. And one that guarantees the individual freedoms we enjoy, freedom of the press, religion, speech.
Call me in a century or two with the results of this study, when you've worked out all those variables, as any study conducted by any reputable social scientist would do.

verity 3 years, 2 months ago

"Word on the streets is that Brownback is pushing for a new law that basically says that if you get Christian counseling before marriage you can get a break on your marriage license to the tune of $25."

You don't need a marriage license to get married in Kansas. You don't even need a preacher or justice of the peace. Save yourself the $75.

"A common law marriage will be recognized in Kansas if the couple considers themselves to be married and publicly holds themselves out to be married and if they are legally eligible to marry. No minimum period of cohabitation is required." Source: Ksbar.org

Maybe Brownback can just round up all the singles in Kansas and have a mass wedding ceremony. It can all be sorted out later as to who gets who. Maybe put the poor on one side and the non-poor on the other and match one up with the other so they can "marry yourself up out of poverty."

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

RINO"s are experts in marriage? Newt has been married 3 times and RINO's have mistresses and other male lovers.

RINO's are trying to distract voters from the fact that RINO's are NOT producing tons of new jobs nor new economic growth.

Joe Hyde 3 years, 2 months ago

"Supporters argue that creating family stability reduces poverty and increases earning potential of Kansas residents." I would say that the supporters are using interior logic to make their point.

For many if not most single people contemplating marriage, the idea of "creating family stability" (by getting married) as a means to increase their earning potential amounts to putting the cart before the horse.

Whether it's the bride-to-be or groom-to-be, or both, holding a good job that pays well is a critical pre-marital factor. Having a good job offers confidence in their future security as a married couple. A strong economy with abundant job opportunities (built around education) is the only thing that will encourage a statewide increase in the number of marriages.

In times of a weak economy where good jobs are difficult to find, young couples who marry then begin having children -- thinking "love conquers all" -- are vulnerable to layoffs followed by "job drought". The financial problems they begin experiencing create a host of stresses that can rip their marriage and their family apart.

oldbaldguy 3 years, 2 months ago

The real problem is people having children that cannot afford them and one mom, three to four father families with no income coming in. I see it all the time. I do not see a fix. Who said, "the poor will always be with us?" I can understand trying to fix this.

costello 3 years, 2 months ago

It seems to me that if there were really a problem here, people would welcome the chance to be heard. All those people who would've married if they wouldn't lose benefits and all those married couples who are getting less than they would have got as singles would be complaining loudly about how the programs are forcing them to choose between marriage and benefits.

oldbaldguy 3 years, 2 months ago

Proverty is the problem, whether it is from just bad luck, a learned behavior or economic realities.

pace 3 years, 2 months ago

another social law, Jobs. Brownback and the GOP and done nothing on jobs. They have cost jobs. Koch brothers have their foot on the working families neck. Jobs.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 2 months ago

Nokia announced today that they were laying off 3500 people in the U.S. today. Do we blame Obama for those job losses?
The fact is that we give our elected leaders too much credit and too much blame for economic gains and losses. Brownback should be no more held responsible for "jobs" as Obama.

billbodiggens 3 years, 2 months ago

Legislative post audit reports in the past 7 or 8 years have been little more than politically driven and at the direction of the House leadership. They have been inept and slipshod by anyone’s estimation. It would be hard to sign off on one of them and keep a straight face.

CHKNLTL 3 years, 2 months ago

Common Law marriage is recognized by the state of Kansas. There is no requirement of length of time lived together or that you have children, only that both the man and woman recognize each other as husband and wife and hold each other out to be spouses to the public. It is legal under Common Law Marriage to file taxes together as Married and be a family unit, sharing all household expenses and incomes. If you never move out of the state, you are married until you File for Divorce in the Court System. Therefore, why does it matter if people go the courthouse and pay for a piece of paper (that isn't even necessary for one to have their name changed), and doesn't prove "marriage" to some insurance companies (that rely solely on how you filed your taxes)? It is only an attempt by Brownback to find excuses to force his religious fanaticism into the politics of Kansas.

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