Archive for Sunday, February 12, 2012

It takes time

Tackling big issues is fine, but the state needs to take time to find the right answers for Kansas.

February 12, 2012


Change is hard, and the sheer volume of change being thrown at Kansans this year is bound to make us uncomfortable. What would help, however, would be for Kansans to be confident that the elected and appointed public officials who are pushing these changes have a full understanding of their consequences.

The administration may have identified some problems that need to be addressed. However, as the state considers major overhauls in its tax system, its school finance system, its Medicaid system, its employee retirement system and other areas, it seems that officials too often fall back on phrases like “we need to do better” or “we have a plan for that” rather than being able to address the specific concerns of people who will be directly affected by these changes.

State officials say they have held many meetings across the state to gather input before formulating their plans, but they seem unprepared to address the issues that presumably would have been raised in such meetings. To whom were they talking? Were they listening to what was said? Their responses leave the impression that the officials don’t fully understand the issues involved or simply aren’t interested in changing their proposals to respond to constituent concerns.

The kind of major changes being proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback and his staff this year take time to develop and implement. The governor has only been back in the state for 14 months after spending 16 years in Washington, D.C. Members of his administration who are spearheading these changes have been in their current offices for 14 months — or less. Those who have come from out of state haven’t had time to get to know Kansas or many of the key players who could offer sound perspectives and good advice on the changes that are being proposed.

That lack of context and study was apparent in last summer’s decision to close Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services offices in Lawrence and several other communities. Only after the closings were announced was there any discussion about how the closures would affect the communities and what mitigating steps might be considered.

Now, Kansans have other questions. How will a new school finance plan that freezes state funding after several years of large cuts and almost guarantees funding inequities among districts achieve the governor’s goal of ending the cycle of lawsuits over education funding? How will private insurance companies provide better service to Medicaid recipients at a lower cost than the state while still making a profit? How will reducing or eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit actually benefit low-income, working Kansans?

A representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington, D.C.-based policy group, helped open legislative hearings on the governor’s plan to reform the state tax code last week. He and controversial economist Arthur Laffer obviously think the plan is a good idea — at least in theory — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best plan for Kansas.

Constituents aren’t the only ones with important questions. In almost every committee hearing, both Republican and Democratic legislators are raising concerns about the proposals that are on the table. State legislators need more time to study these issues and talk to people around the state about their impact.

At this point, there seem to be far more questions than answers about major policy measures. The governor and state legislators need to make sure they take time to get the answers before making major changes that could move the state in the wrong direction.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Nancy L. Cohen: "Delirium" tells the story of how a small group of religious zealots captured the Republican Party, took control of the nation's political agenda - and how Democrats let it happen.

American politics today - the dysfunction, the polarization, the vitriol - isn't just about a reaction to the economy or hostility to President Obama. It has its roots in a shadow movement that started about four decades ago.

The key point is what drove these people, what motivated them, in the first place. It's honestly quite strange when you consider we're talking about the politics of the world's oldest democracy and largest economy.

They believed that sex was destroying America. So, you could say, it's the sex, stupid.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 3 months ago

Yes we are talking Gingrich,Santorum,Romney,Cain and just about every candidate the GOP has put forth. GW Bush is one. Jeb Bush also. Which provides an absolute perfect plan for the sexual fundamentalists to always win the nomination.

And our very own Gov Sam Brownback admininstration

They talk economy,jobs, environment and new industry however these matters are irrelevant in real life to these sexual fundamentalists. In real life this powerful minority believe sex is evil and is somehow ruining the USA.

Their opposition to abortion is their backdoor approach to the anti sex agenda. Which explains why they are anti contraception in spite of the fact that contraception will and does reduce abortions year after year.


Kookamooka 6 years, 3 months ago

Great LTE. Brownback doesn't understand that government is about PEOPLE. And they don't all look and act like he and the Koch brothers. This is NOT a private corporation and government never should be. They have to work together for the greater good of all, not just the few at the top. And...for the record. There is no such thing as trickle down economics.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 3 months ago

Brownback's goal is to push an ideological agenda, not to improve the quality or efficiency of government services.

ThePilgrim 6 years, 3 months ago

"...Kansans to be confident that the elected and appointed public officials who are pushing these changes have a full understanding of their consequences." This article, and people's opinions in general, assume that these are neophytes who don't understand what they are doing, or don't understand Kansans. They may not understand Kansans, but I disagree that they don't know what they are doing. They know exactly what they are doing. Brownback and crew have the ideology - "big gov't is bad" (even at the state level), "taxes are bad", "morals are good". And the biggest one is theological - "poor people are that way because of bad choices (sin)" or even that poor people are that way because they obviously did something to deserve it, and have God's judgement. Modern day Pharisees who see the blind man and ask "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Bible, John 9:2). This is reflected in Brownback's policy to handle social services: "if they just got married then they wouldn't be having these problems in the first place!". But I digress... How can the Patriot Act or Obamacare spring into being with thousands of pages of policy, all written and ready-to-sign? The gov't programs they espouse (both the left and the right) don't just pop out of their heads on the spot - think tanks have these policies all lined out with the language ready-to-go. Complete with "statistics" of what the expected outcome should be. They are not products of lengthy debate or policy crafting, like what we expect Washington to be like. They know exactly what they are doing.

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