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Our voice in Topeka

Representative, District 70

The session is about to end. Sine Die — official final day of the session — will be Friday, and we don’t expect fireworks.

I thought you might want to know that before January 2010, the legislature and Governor had cut more than $1 billion — yes, a billion dollars — from state spending. Since then, we have trimmed about $200 million more from spending in the upcoming budget. OK, it doesn’t trim; it whacks off another $200 million. That’s about $1.2 billion in cuts before we addressed the issue of a tax increase.

I appreciate the comments I have received from many of you approving of the sales tax increase. It was not a fun vote to make, but given the circumstances, I didn’t see the sales tax increase as a wild idea, after weighing the options available to Kansas as well as the effects of those options on Kansans. If you’ve been following my column this year, you already know that.

One idea that came up in the last hours of the veto session in an attempt to “fund” the budget without the tax increase was a proposal to sell state assets to pay for our necessary state spending — to pay for our ongoing, day-to-day expenses. The thought of selling a few trucks and excess property might work especially if we were funding a one-time expense with a one-time sale, but the proposal was to sell $150 million in assets before the end of June 2011 for recurring expenses.

At first hearing, it sounded like it could have merit, and selling assets still may be a good idea, to the extent those assets aren’t necessary. However, to put buildings on the chopping block during a recession with a requirement that the asset sell this fiscal year, which was the proposal, seems to put the purchaser in the driver’s seat. Besides, we’ve had the former Kansas State Hospital location for sale in Topeka for about 10 years now, and no one has been pounding on the door to buy it.

This last minute proposal was actually for us to sell some of the state’s office buildings in Topeka and around the state, and then lease them back from the purchaser. Doesn’t that sound like it would be more costly to Kansas, and Kansans’ pocketbooks, in the long run? Wouldn’t the purchaser hope to make money on the deal? Isn’t leasing or renting typically considered more expensive than owning the property? Well, we didn’t approve that idea.

I’d think a conservative would like to see where he’s jumping before he actually jumps, and would want to think about it awhile, not sell $150 million in state-owned assets on a snap decision. I think I’d want to know what other states had done this, and find out whether it had been a rousing success for them. I’d think that a conservative would not advocate putting his state at that kind of risk. Well, the proposal came from the “conservative” wing of the Republican Party.

I consider it an honor to serve you and hope this column has been helpful during this legislative session to your understanding of what we were doing in Topeka.

You can contact me by e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861, or call me at (620) 382-2133.

Last modified May 27, 2010

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