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Our voice in Topeka

Representative of District 70

This week was short so conference committees could meet, but we still passed more legislation and made more sausage than in the rest of the session put together! We passed the “mega” budget and a capital improvements budget. The subject of a smoke-free Kansas came up, but did not come to a final vote.

The most excitement surrounded a “transparency” bill that came up Wednesday and we passed a host of other legislation on various topics. We return next week to review the conference committees’ work. Then I am home for three weeks while the Governor considers what she will veto.

Transparency bill

Out of nowhere came an amendment, which would require those who attempt to affect elections by radio, television, or mail to disclose the names of contributors so the public can see who is pushing for or against a candidate. This is the same report candidates send to the Ethics Commission. This caused great heartburn for certain folks, representatives, and a couple of lobby groups. Ultimately, the amendment failed through a procedural move. I had no opportunity to vote on the amendment, but I do believe transparency in elections is very important. I recall that as we raised our kids, my wife, Anita, washed out our boys’ cloth diapers, then she took those dingy things outside and hung them on the line in the sunlight. As she predicted, the dingy stains were bleached white.

So it is with government. There is never a problem with too much sunshine on diapers or the affairs of government. Transparency should be the order of the day. Maybe someday.

Budget bill

As to the budget (appropriations bill) and its effect, the House budget attempts to strike a balance and require every state agency and program to make some sacrifices. Some agencies are being asked to work with less funding than others.

Here is a look at how agencies would be impacted by our state’s need to reduce its overall spending for fiscal year 2010:

  • General Government funding reduced 9.9 percent.
  • Poor and disabled funding reduced 4.2 percent.
  • Public Safety funding reduced 9.4 percent.
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources funding reduced 22.7 percent.
  • Higher Education funding reduced 3.5 percent.
  • K-12 Education funding reduced .6 percent ($33 out of $4,400 funding).

This formulation has been slightly adjusted by a Senate-House conference committee, but the state’s 2010 budget, no matter what its final form, is going to affect every level of government. It does not fund several programs that county and city entities count on to pave roads and repair bridges. While I find this troubling, the House did fund “slider payments” due in the spring of 2009 as part of that year’s budget — it is the 2010 money that is left out.

I don’t yet know what the conference committee did with this aspect.

The House budget bill takes advantage of all federal stimulus funding for Medicaid and K-12 education (there is some dispute about that), and despite reductions, Kansas schools are receiving more state funding than in 2008. Schools also would receive another $71 million in Title 1 funding in addition to state funding. The House budget bill does accept all but two of the Governor’s recommended budget adjustments. The bill ensures state employees who have worked tirelessly are shown a bit of gratitude through a whopping one percent raise and longevity bonus. It also adds additional funding for physically and developmentally disabled waiver programs (the d-d waiver was scrapped by the conference committee as a concession to the Senate and Governor), and expands the state’s health insurance program for families with incomes up to 250 percent of poverty level.

You may email me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion 66861 or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. If you are coming to Topeka, call me at (785) 296-7636.

Last modified April 1, 2009

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