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Our Voice in Topeka

Representative of District 70

Last week the House passed a relatively short bill, but it’s one that will affect you if the Senate passes it and the Governor signs it into law. It will permit the Secretary of Revenue to send you a postcard telling you when your driver’s license is up for renewal, rather than the current envelope.

Hold on, you’re thinking, “How will I get the test I must take?”

Well, there won’t be any testing if you have a clean driving record. Simply go to the driver’s license office and renew. Period. That’s all. The process is easier than ever. I do think the department has done a good job in the past of using the test to educate the public on law changes that we otherwise might not be aware of, but at this point, we have approved doing away with the test for “good drivers.” Now it’s up to the Senate.

We also passed the “rescission” bill and sent it to the Senate to take up. That bill adopted Governor Parkinson’s proposals to balance the current year’s budget with minor changes. The House amended the bill to cut by 5 percent all legislators’ salaries, judge’s salaries, and the salaries of elected and appointed officials in the executive branch.

The theory: Bring into line the previous agency cuts made by the Governor so no one branch of government and no one tier of employee would be exempted from the cuts needed because of this recession.

The bill has one problem. Since the day the Governor proposed his budget cuts, we have had two months with sagging tax revenue, and this bill won’t balance the budget. There remains a $40 million hole as of Monday, and if revenues for March, April, May, or June are below estimates, the problem will worsen.

The Governor preferred we just pass his proposal and wait on dealing with the problem of the $40 million. This problem has to be rectified before we adjourn. I voted for this bill.

It is important to know the rescission bill does nothing to rectify the Medicaid cuts previously announced by the Governor. The bill does move around cuts regarding disabled Kansans from one fund to another, but no new Kansas money was restored. The move around allows Kansas to receive some federal matching money for the disabled, at no cost to Kansans (other than those resulting from federal deficit issues, of course). The House committees on tax and appropriations have taken no action to rectify Medicaid cuts affecting nursing homes and mental health facilities.

A House member from Wichita tried to fix this through an amendment to restore the cuts but with no way to pay for the proposal, the amendment failed. Without a specific source of funding identified, amendments like this one will continue to fail.

Don’t forget — you should receive my survey by Saturday. If you don’t, please stop by the office of the Hillsboro Star-Journal, Marion County Record, or the Peabody Gazette-Bulletin to pick one up, fill it out, and mail back as soon as possible. Please re-read last week’s column about the survey if you have questions.

You may contact me by e-mail at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861, or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66612; or call me at (620) 382-2133 or (785) 296-7699.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2010

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