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COLUMN: Legislative Report

Representative, District 70

The legislative session is over, having ended at about 5 p.m. May 11th, and Sine Die (final closing) occurred May 14. It’s the first session in years, I’m told, to end in the daylight.

As you might know by now, we passed a balanced but fragile budget; and increased sales tax by one cent, sunseting in three years, at which time .4 of that cent will stay for road funding.

Voters had said through the survey that if a tax had to go up, they would prefer a property tax increase, so that’s what I advocated for. I also pushed hard for a cigarette and beer tax increase as a way to reduce the sales tax increase; I even advocated with senators who I know and have worked with. The Senate tried a cigarette tax proposal first, but couldn’t muster enough votes to pass it. The Senate couldn’t even get a proposal for beer/alcohol tax out of its committee, so the Senate proceeded with the sales tax proposal as its only choice.

You will hear a lot from Kansas Chamber of Commerce and “Americans for Prosperity” in the upcoming months claiming that I worked to raise your taxes and spend your money, and they are likely to finance my opposition in the primary election, to advance their agenda. By now, however, you’ve read my columns enough to know for what I have advocated and what I believe — and a tax increase isn’t it.

The question has always been about who would raise the tax and what tax would be raised, not whether. I believe in and I fought for conservative values, including the responsibility to balance a budget with real money. I fought for what you advocated I do. I did avoid massive property tax increases at the local level. I did advocate for discretionary taxes first. I then advocated the entire state’s share of the burden — the broadest base tax available.

Those who pass through Kansas and those who temporarily live here while working pay a sales tax, too, not just you and I. Please keep in mind we have already cut more than $1 billion in state spending. The budget we did pass cut more than $200 million.

Consider this, the budget we refused to pass depended on more than $200 million in funding that is not likely to come in; it didn’t fund the elderly in nursing homes, meaning the six nursing homes in the 70th District would together lose more than $1 million in cost reimbursement, not profit, but cost reimbursement — in the next year, and they cannot continue to lose like that and continue to operate.

Those cuts would translate into more jobs lost and less workers throughout Kansas, again raising the tax burden. That budget also would have cut $7 million from young children’s programs, and the estimate is that for every dollar spent, Kansas will save $7 to $20 in future spending through less special education and other special services. That budget would have cut another $86 million from Kansas schools; in a recession, is it our hope to make more workers unemployed, and at the same time cut programs designed to ensure a better workforce?

It’s one thing to cut a “frill” but $86 million?

You’ve likely read that the KPERS retirement fund has been under-funded by the legislature for more than 10 years, and now that’s at drastic proportions — this is not a discretionary expense, it is required. Well, the budget advocated by the Chamber and AFP didn’t fund KPERS, again. The list goes on and on.

Now, was that a budget based on conservative principals? Doesn’t a conservative balance his or her budget? Pay as you go? Does a conservative spend, realizing that in a few months he or she would be $200 million short, even after under-funding those in need? I submit the conservative’s budget shores up the thing, and carefully balances as best it can the income, the duties to pay, the likely cost savings in the future in spending today, and the consequences of such a budget.

I have heard from many of you thanking me for the effort. You’re welcome; it is an honor to serve you. Most understand there comes a point that a cut that is damaging to the economy is hurting real people. Don’t apologize for being willing to be part of the solution.

As Kansans, we will shoulder our load and help those who need our assistance. We, in rural Kansas, are hard working and careful with our pennies. We recognize that the good of the whole sometimes means chipping in. We know it’s not all about “me” and that we can do about anything for a short time.

Let’s get through this recession together, and let’s be about the business of improving our state.

Contact me by e-mail at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861, or call me at (620) 382-2133. Leave a message, if you would like.

Last modified June 3, 2010

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