Opinion: Something’s wrong in Kansas

May 7, 2014


This year’s legislative session has come to a fitting end.  Revenues in April fell substantially from those that had been projected; Moody’s bond rating service downgraded Kansas bonds, making it more expensive for the state to borrow in the future; the governor blamed the revenue shortfalls on the Obama administration’s fiscal policies; and the honorable members of the Kansas House and Senate approved the budget in spite of the shortfalls with several members stating that they would deal with any problems “next year.”

I am surprised that they weren’t playing Jimmy Buffet songs while they voted and that none of them made a public statement quoting the famous economic maxim “Don’t worry; be happy.” To quote William Allen White, “What’s the matter with Kansas?”

This past legislative session has made it clear that any proper sense of responsibility, fiscal otherwise, has left the capitol building and taken up residence far from Kansas. When I was growing up and forming my own ideas about politics, a political “conservative” was someone who respected the status quo and who eschewed radical change. Republicans were known for their fiscal responsibility, as in Pat Nixon’s venerable “cloth coat.” Senator Dole was known for his willingness and ability to make compromises “across the aisle” in order to ensure that government did its job of serving the people.

This is not what is going on in Topeka any longer. Instead we have legislators who believe that fiscal prudence means only one thing: cutting taxes no matter what the effect on institutions of government and on the public. Our legislators no longer seem to care about facts. Important legislation, like the school finance bill, included radical changes to teacher job security without any serious attempt at fact-gathering or public hearings. Our court system’s funding structures were radically altered, again without fact-gathering or adequate hearings and, very possibly, in contravention of the Kansas Constitution. And, of course, a budget based on inaccurate assumptions and bad economics was passed that very well may not work in six months requiring debilitating interim cuts in state agency budgets. But it’s OK; don’t worry, be happy.

If I sound rather angry, that’s because I am. The business of government is serious. The lives and welfare of Kansans depend upon the actions of the Legislature. Legislators hold office in trust, to serve the people. Legislators bear a heavy burden of responsibility, or at least they should. I have come to believe that a majority of the present Legislature does not care about their responsibilities to the people of Kansas.

Ideology has replaced politics. Ideology has replaced sound economic and fiscal policy. Ideology has replaced common sense. And the people of Kansas let this continue to happen. When will it end? What, indeed, is the matter with Kansas? I think, perhaps, it is time once again to ask this question and to apply some measure of accountability to our elected officials who seem to think that they may do whatever they want without reasonable thought or public input or factual basis for their actions. If we wait much longer to recognize that our legislators are not conservatives, but, instead, are radicals determined to undermine and destroy the social compact under which we have lived for generations, then it may well be too late to save our state.

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


Julius Nolan 4 years ago

Excellent column Mike. And the front page headline was brownie will talk to FBI if asked. Does this idiot really believe he would have a choice?

Larry Sturm 4 years ago

Sam {Koch} Brownback and the Koch brothers legislative henchmen are what is the matter with Kansas. BROWNBACK IS BAD FOR KANSAS.

Michael Henderson 4 years ago

Absolutely right. He has sent jobs fleeing the state, driving us into bankruptcy, mostly to enrich his Koch backers. He and his crony State Secretary Kris Kobach have tried hard to disenfranchise as many voters as possible--the main political strategy of the GOP--especially in Blue districts. He has done his best to keep Federal dollars out of Kansas and to keep as many Kansans as he can from having health care. Why Republicans think that killing more of their constituents is a good idea is a mystery to those of us who still follow the Golden Rule. We have to elect Paul Davis to keep Kansas from having our bond ratings lowered still more, and to stop trying to balance the budget by raising sales taxes, which fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor--another mysterious Republican strategy.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years ago

Like Larry said, the problem with Kansas is that the state government and governor are bought and paid for by the Koch Regime. The people have no say, only the billionaires that expect a return on their investment, no matter what bad effect this has on our state.

And the decision by the Supreme Court affirming this deplorable situation, that government belongs to those that can afford to buy influence is going to make things more and more difficult for the average citizen to have any affect on these rogue elements.

Freedom?? I doubt it. It is in dire peril.

Scott Burkhart 4 years ago

Yes the business of government is serious. You and your ilk have grown the business of government to the point it was sucking the life out of Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer in this state. It was time to do some cutting. It was high time to show the liberals of this state that the government could exist on less and learn to live within its means.

Scott Burkhart 4 years ago

Whatever? Nice one. You really got me there. $129 billion in mandatory spending on education by a liberal, state supreme court. $16 billion in unfunded pension liabilities set up by Dems at the state house. There are the reasons for the downgrade. Boo-yah!

Greg Cooper 4 years ago

Sorry, Scott, but those things were "set up" by a legislature that cooperated in producing bills that benefitted the entire state, rather than the few who now set up bills that benefit the few. And, damn, we don't want to fund education, now, do we? Might develop a crop of kids who can actually think. Bad for business, wouldn't you say?

Darrell Lea 4 years ago

Scott, your vapid accusatory tone and blind recitation of talking points has very little to do with the reality of the state's current fiscal situation. By following ideology instead of mathematics, the state of Kansas is seriously teetering at the brink of a financial cliff. It may take decades to recover from these self inflicted wounds.

I guess you all showed us, didn't you?

Julius Nolan 4 years ago

Scott. what's the method you use to like your own post so many times. There can't be that many ignorant people on this forum?

Kevin Elliott 4 years ago

You may have a point in there somewhere, but the solution should be a smart and sound solution, not a stupid solution that just creates a worse mess.

But right now it is just stupid is as stupid does by the people in charge right now.

Grégoire Guillaume 4 years ago

It's laughable the republicans call themselves "conservatives" they're anything but! Is it conservative to have to pay more to borrow money because of reckless policies that have lowered your bond rating? Is it conservative to put the onus on citizens to provide "papers please" and the infrastructure to enforce such bogus "REGULATIONS" for a non-existent problem? Is it conservative to try to de-incentivize responsible energy policies to combat climate change and not think to the future? Wake up Kansas! They're playing you for suckers all the way to the country club.

4 years ago

Legislators do NOT hold office in trust-to serve the people. On a national scale, "We,For, and By The People" has been legislated OUT of any primary consideration. It's a relief for most, if not all conservatives. WAKE UP!

Larry Sturm 4 years ago

I hope that Brownback gets smeared by the FBI and is indited for racketeering.

Bob Smith 4 years ago

And then they can have a really cool show trial! And Brownback can be made to do self-criticism and be sent to a re-education camp!

Lawrence Morgan 4 years ago

Mike, yours is an excellent article. Thank you!

Ken Lassman 4 years ago

One of my favorite teachers currently teaching (who will remain anonymous) has two relevant comments that I think provide a useful function of the testing orientation that has become the centerpiece of education these days: 1) The way to get a heifer to gain weight is not by weighing it all the time; 2) The most useful function of high school testing would be to make it mandatory for potential politicians to have to pass the exam as a prerequisite to running for public office.

Dave Trabert 4 years ago

This is an interesting attempt to re-define conservatism as not wanting to rock the boat. 'Respect the status quo' is a false description of conservatism but certainly suits the mindset of one who thinks government knows best.

The author also uses the standard tactic of decrying 'ideology' as something negative, when in fact ideology is simply a set of ideals. His commentary is laced with his own ideology (not that that's a bad thing).

Julius Nolan 4 years ago

I have a lot more respect for Mike and his commentary than any Koch mouthpiece.

Greg Cooper 4 years ago

As the spokesperson for the "conservative" sect in Kansas, Dave, why don't you enlighten us with your, I mean, the correct, definition of the term? That would be quite interesting to those of us who grew up with Kansas, and national, politicians who were, in the main, less concerned with the "status quo" than moving the nation toward a better life for all, not just some.

James Howlette 4 years ago

You really should look up "conservative" in the dictionary, because it means exactly what he said it means. It means someone who holds to traditional values and is cautious about change. He's not the one trying to redefine it. You are.

Phillip Chappuie 4 years ago

The usual Trabert babble. He generally can absolutely nothing in so many words better than most people. Someone at the HQ just pulls a string and he makes a post. I appreciate the view of the author and I believe he makes perfect sense. But it is not just Kansas. We have a nation of non thinkers that use hot button key words and get emotional reactions in the pursuit of their particular ideology. Not reason but unbridled emotion. Maybe come football season I can photoshop a picture of Obama with Coach Snyder. Then every K-State fan will cheer for the Jayhawks. You know, take one right out of the ole AFP playbook.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

The Kansas City Star opinion section has a worthwhile viewpoint.


Gerald Kerr 4 years ago

Government is too expensive. It grows and grows to feed the bureaucrats who fatten themselves creating new bells and whistles to blow and ring and pay themselves handsomely for the cacophony they create. Government must be cut down to affordable size. Families have been cutting back for years- life styles are diminishing, median discretionary purchasing power has not increased in decades. Stealth taxes and fees are increased by public taxing entities every year. People have had enough. Citizens are just beginning to wake up to the deceit and relentless increase in government power, control, and cost. There will be a reckoning and bureaucrats, even distinguished professors and Administrators will be asked to pony up to cuts like those of us on fixed incomes and working more and more for less and less in the private sector which has been torpedoed by relentless public sector regulation and tax growth.

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