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Our voice in Topeka

Representative of District 70

The legislative coffees on Saturday were well attended and both Sen. Jim Barnett and I were grateful for the opportunity to meet and discuss the issues of greatest concern to you all. Thanks for taking part in our government process.

We now have the unofficial figures for the state’s revenue in February, and revenue is again below the estimate predicted by Legislative Research.

This time we are around $70 million below the estimate, putting our 2010 fiscal budget — the budget that ends June 30 — about $100 million short. Besides that, we will start the 2011 year on July 1 $370 million in the hole, so we are likely to spend much of the remainder of the session grappling with these matters.

Governor Parkinson had announced he would analyze the 2010 budget shortfall this week. He is likely to order further adjustments, which could include greater cuts. As for the House, our appropriations and tax committees have not given us an indication how they propose to tackle these budgetary monsters. The tax committee has held hearings on repealing numerous tax exemptions, but it has taken no action on them.

Your surveys are still coming in to me, by the boatloads. I am overwhelmed by your enthusiasm and willingness to fill them out and return them. I ask that you keep in mind that a survey is just that — it is an opportunity for you to express your thoughts on various issues, and it allows me the opportunity learn what you think. The survey is not like voting; there is not a “winning” or “losing” position on the matters.

The greatest value of the survey for me is that I gain a sense of your thoughts and ideas; I can see how strongly the people of the 70th District feel on a subject. What came through clearly is that you understand most of these matters are complex and have competing interests. You obviously weighed the issues before answering or commenting. I worked very hard formulating the questions, and I tried to phrase them in a way to take my ideas (other than choosing the subject matters) out of the mix.

I must have done OK writing neutral questions, since one responder thought it was obvious from the way I wrote the questions that I would not raise taxes, and another responder thought I would. Again, the survey isn’t about what I favor and oppose. I needed and wanted your thoughts, not an echo of my voice. Your comments are most helpful and will help me formulate my responses to upcoming issues. Thank you for sharing. When the surveys are tallied, I’ll share with you what you collectively think. I mention one of them below.

The House concurred Feb. 25 with a Senate bill to ban smoking statewide. The measure had become a perennial issue in the legislature. Ultimately, after a spirited debate, the bill advanced to the Governor’s desk on a 68-54 vote and is expected to be signed fairly quickly.

The survey totals are not complete, but you might be interested in knowing that right now, after tallying the first 900 surveys (we still have more to do), about 65 percent of you advocate the statewide smoking ban and 35 percent oppose it. This subject came up in 2008 during the campaign, and it was good to see, by and large, you agree with my commitment to vote to pass this legislation.

You may e-mail me at brookens70@sbcglobal.net, 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 March 4, 2010

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