Written by House Democratic Leader Paul Davis
June 7, 2011
Last November the political landscape in Topeka changed dramatically.
An influx of hard-right Republicans altered the power structure of the Legislature, along with the arrival of Sam Brownback, the most conservative governor in modern Kansas history.
Several days after taking office, Gov. Brownback proposed the largest cut to our public schools in Kansas history.
House Republicans went a step further by insisting that the Legislature make deeper cuts to state programs so that a large ending balance could be socked away.
The final budget left many state agencies decimated and more than $72 million in the state’s savings account.
Gov. Brownback called the budget “a victory for Kansas.”
While we must recognize that a sizable budget gap had to be closed and cuts were inevitable, the magnitude of the cuts is staggering, especially considering that more than $1.3 billion was cut from what once was a $6.5 billion state budget prior to Brownback taking office.
Throughout the budget discussions the far-right Republicans exclusively focused on the ending balance.
In my time in the Legislature, I have never been a part of budget discussions where the primary focus was on the size of the state coffers over the harm of the potential cuts. Yes, budgets are about numbers. One cannot ignore this fact.
However, when one focuses on the numbers with no regard for the individuals who will be affected, something is missing.
For a budget to be “a victory for Kansas,” we must presume that there are winners.
Ask the 2,500 people with developmental disabilities who lose home care services if they feel like winners.
Ask the 2,000 mostly disabled Kansans who lose general assistance if they feel like winners.
Ask the several hundred seniors who may not receive meals on wheels any more if they feel like winners.
Ask the people in Easton who no longer will have a parents-as-teachers program or after-school programs for at-risk kids if they feel like winners.
Ask the 186 employees in the Wichita School District who just got laid off if they feel like winners.
Ask the parents who will find out that their child is in a much larger class in August and that they have to pay higher taxes if they feel like winners.
No, I would not describe this budget as a victory.
Perhaps those who only see the numbers in this budget and want to ignore the impact to middle-class Kansans are winners.
A victory is not a large ending balance without care or concern for the harm that may come of it.
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