Editorial: Rocky start

Efforts to build a better relationship between higher education and state government in Kansas have gotten off to a rocky start.

August 22, 2013


Members of both the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Board of Regents recently have expressed a desire to forge a better working relationship, but early steps in that direction aren’t going particularly well.

At their annual retreat last week, the regents spent considerable time discussing how to better communicate the state’s higher education needs to legislators. Before passing a budget that cuts 3 percent from state university budgets over this year and next, a number of legislators expressed frustration with tuition increases approved by the Board of Regents. In an apparent attempt to respond to that criticism, the regents decided last week to offer to hold tuition steady if legislators agreed to restore the university funding that had been cut.

If the regents had left it at that, the idea of using flat tuition to negotiate for additional university funding might have been on the table. However, the discussion didn’t end there and one regent added that if state funding isn’t restored, “all bets are off on tuition.”

What one regent initially described as a “powerful message,” now was a line in the sand. Legislative leaders reacted with anger, accusing the regents of “using students as hostages to unnecessarily extract money from taxpayers.”

It was an inauspicious beginning to a supposed effort to improve the relationship between the regents and state legislators.

The regents need to be strong advocates for higher education in the state, but they apparently could use some lessons in how to make their case to state legislators. Considering that three of the nine regents are themselves former state legislators, it’s a little surprising that the board didn’t anticipate the negative reaction of lawmakers to their tuition rhetoric.

By the same token, considering legislators’ strong rhetoric about rising tuition, they perhaps shouldn’t have reacted so negatively and dismissively to an indication that the regents were willing to consider holding the line on further increases.

Let’s hope that things go a little better when members of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee visit state university campuses later this year. Senate President Susan Wagle said after funding for the visits was approved that the meetings would promote “two-way communication” on higher education issues.

That kind of communication involves listening as well as talking and it works best when people truly are willing to consider different points of view. We hope the upcoming meetings will help produce the unified base of support that the Kansas higher education system so desperately needs.


olddognewtrix 4 years, 10 months ago

Communicating with the Legislature is like the old problem of communicating with the Soviet Union--the hurdles of doctrinaire thinking is very high

TalkSense 4 years, 10 months ago

". . accusing the regents of “using students as hostages to unnecessarily extract money from taxpayers.”

In fact, the Legislature is using the universities as hostages to unnecessarily extract money from students. It has been doing so for a decade as other budget priorities emerged - some of them unavoidable but others by choice. Given the massive, self-imposed budget crisis the Legislature will face in 2014, the outcome will likely be a tuition freeze in exchange for no new cuts, vs. a restoration of past cuts. That might resemble a win-win to legislators, but for the universities it would be one more squeeze of the vice. This applies to KU but is probably a bigger challenge for the state universities that depend more heavily on tuition to pay the bills. For students and their parents, it might resemble a short-term gain - but only if you don't care about the academic quality of the university you attend.

George Lippencott 4 years, 10 months ago

There seems to be a misunderstanding as to the role of the legislature in the debate about higher education. We seem to have become fixated on the notion that all we need to do to obtain more funding is to present a better advocacy.

IMHO Legislators have a responsibility to listen. But they also have a responsibility to prioritize. That role would suggest that no matter how well formulated your advocacy what you want may not compete successfully with what other people want. Kansas funds; in addition to higher education; K-12, Disabilities, Medicaid, Roads, Regulatory Responsibilities, and a host of other functions.

Only if the taxpayers had infinite money would everything be able to compete successfully at the level the advocates demand.

So in my world it is not solely a case of listening but a case of balancing priorities – a key role of the legislature!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

How is this good use of tax dollar revenue?

Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Posted by Jim Hightower

Where is the $47 million tax dollars that belong to Kansas taxpayers?

My congratulations to workers in 16 states – from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.

Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, has analyzed state programs meant to create jobs, but instead have created some $700 million a year in corporate welfare. This scam starts with the normal practice of corporations withholding from each employee's monthly check the state income taxes their workers owe.

But rather than remitting this money to pay for state services, these 16 states simply allow the corporations to keep the tax payments for themselves! Adding to the funkiness of taxation-by-corporation, the bosses don't even have to tell workers that the company is siphoning off their state taxes for its own fun and profit.

These heists are rationalized in the name of "job creation," but that's a hoax, too. They're really just bribes the states pay to get corporations to move existing jobs from one state to another, or they're hostage payments to corporations that demand the public's money – or else they'll move their jobs out of state.

Last year, Kansas used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff!

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