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Sam Brownback Declares War on Kansas

by Marcel Harmon and appeared first in SALON®

It’s not uncommon to see developments named after what they displace or sometimes destroy. Subdivisions with names like Wild Creek Place likely contain neither a trace of the “wild” nor the remains of a creek. I guess more descriptive names such as Flat Asphalt Junction simply lack the same level of appeal.

I’ve come to see the names of Kansas legislative committees in the same manner. Under the legislature’s ultraconservative leadership, committees such as Education (House and Senate), Education Budget (House), Commerce, Labor and Economic Development (House) and Local Government (Senate), to name but a few, seem cruelly named after what the ultraconservatives have marked for displacement or destruction.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s march to zero income taxes, combined with legislation designed to weaken public services and wrest control away from local government, are hollowing out the very aspects of government these committees focus on. Public education certainly seems targeted to be greatly supplemented by, if not outright replaced by, private education.

We see this in other states as well. For some time now, model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans For Prosperity (AFP) and other libertarian / ultraconservative organizations has been used as the template for bills in states with varying levels of ultraconservative control. Such templates have been developed on everything from taxation and fiscal policy, to energy and the environment, to health and human services.

Looking just at education, in 2015 there were 172 measures introduced in 42 states based on ALEC model legislation, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. The general goal being to “… transform public education from a public and accountable institution that serves the public into one that serves private, for-profit interests.” With public education commonly comprising a significant portion of state budgets, this dovetails nicely with ultraconservative legislation focused on drastically shrinking government and reducing taxes.

In Kansas, one of the latest bills taking inspiration from such model legislation is HB 2741, intended to provide the state with a new public school funding formula. TheKansas Association of School Boards (KASB) provides a good summary of the billhere. The need for a new formula began during the 2014-2015 legislative session with the repeal of the previous school funding formula and implementation of the temporary two-year block grant funding mechanism, intended to fill the gap while the legislature works on a new formula. I should note that the block grant has also effectively reduced the dollars available to school districts for day to day operations.

HB 2741 was filed shortly before the legislative break and now sits in the House Appropriations Committee. One of the more controversial things the bill does is establish the Kansas Education Freedom Act, creating a private school savings program and essentially diverting already limited public school dollars to private schools. It would allow parents to use 70 percent of the state aid per student for their district to pay for private (including religious) schools, online schools, home schooling or tutors.

While the bill would require such students be provided “instruction in at least those subjects required by state law” it does not require any type of student assessment or accountability measures. And the Kansas state treasurer, not the Kansas State Department of Education, would be given regulatory oversight of both the finances and the academics related to the private school savings program.

These “education freedom accounts” as described in the bill bear a lot of similarity to aspects of ALEC’s Education Savings Account Act model legislation. For example, giving oversight to the state treasurer follows ALEC’s suggestion that financial and academic oversight do not have to fall under a state’s department in charge of education. The model legislation defines this oversight department as the “state Department of Public Instruction or an organization chosen by the state [italics added].”

The stated purpose of HB 2747 is to “provide financing of ‘instruction.’” However, the bill limits instruction to “… those school district functions that directly impact the provision of education services. The term ‘instruction’ does not include the following school district functions: Central office administration; capital improvement construction, reconstruction or remodeling; facility maintenance and repair; food service procurement and preparation; or the provision of extracurricular activities …”

While general state aid to “instruction” activities is increased under this bill, it is decreased or eliminated relative to the “non-instruction” functions specifically mentioned above. And though analysis by KASB suggests HB 2747 would initially be a 4% increase in state general aid over the block grant (still inadequate and not more than the previous funding formula), after the “Hold Harmless” dollars go away two years later it would actually be a decrease. This provides the ultraconservatives an opportunity to argue that they’ve increased “instructional” funding (important in an election year) while still reducing the state’s overall spending on public education (necessary if they’re going to continue this mad march to zero income taxes).

And reducing overall spending on public education is a primary goal of ALEC and AFP, as well as the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI), Kansas’s local manifestation of this libertarian / ultraconservative intellectual tradition. Narrowly defining “instruction” and “shifting dollars to the classroom” are code for reducing the overall funding for day to day public school operations and have been common talking points of Brownback and the ultraconservative legislators.

Per the bill, spending on administration would be reduced, which is alreadyunderfunded. General state aid could no longer be used to fund extracurricular activities (only local dollars), defined as “those activities provided or supported by a school district, but which are not required by or a substantial part of any curriculum of such school district.” Athletics would certainly take a hit, but so could other activities such as band, choir, debate, student council or anything else with an extracurricular component, limiting or eliminating the positive impacts such activities can have on students.

As with extracurricular activities, only local dollars could be used for food service or related activities, potentially impacting the quality and quantity of the food districts serve. But nutritional meals, along with having (and expecting to have) a full belly, actually impact the effectiveness of learning in the classroom. The elimination of general state aid funding for food service would also likely jeopardize local farm to school programs where they’ve been implemented, not just negatively impacting students but also local economies.

The additional restrictions placed on capital improvement projects via a) the creation of the Joint Committee on State Building Construction to review (and limit) projects requesting capital improvement state aid, b) the reduction and in some cases elimination of state aid for non-classroom designated areas and c) the requirement of three sealed bids for any construction project making use of bond money (potentially problematic for rural areas and other special circumstances), would have a negative impact on students as well as local economies. By reducing state spending on capital improvement projects, the burden for this would further be shifted to local communities and the number and quality of projects would likely decrease.

A recent report from the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, summarized here, concluded that current spending levels are already inadequate to meet modern standards and district needs relative to operations and maintenance, renovations and new construction. We still have a long way to go to recover from decades of deferred maintenance that can negatively impact student & teacher productivity/performance and health, and therefore student success. This bill would further slow that recovery in the state of Kansas.

Increasing the percentage of public education funding that local communities would have to provide also flies in the face of the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling in favor of a lower court’s decision that the current block grant doesn’t equitably fund all school districts. Wealthier districts have greater potential to raise local funds for these “non-instructional” functions. So HB 2741 would seem no closer to meeting this equity requirement than the block grant.

 

Interestingly Representative Ron Highland, Republican, one of two primary authors of the bill (the other being Senator Steve Abrams, Republican), stated that HB 2741incorporates recommendations from a $2.6 million efficiency study conducted by consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal. That’s $2.6 million spent on a study geared to reduce government spending; $2.6 million spent by a state with significant revenue problems originating from a reliance on outdated and disproven economic policies that lead to the revenue problems to begin with. Problems that could have been essentially solved by simply repealing the governor’s devastating income tax cuts.

While some of the bill does derive from the study’s recommendations, none of the specific aspects I’ve covered here – shifting public dollars to private schools and limiting state dollars to a narrow definition of “instruction” related activities – are actually in Alvarez and Marsal’s recommendations (at least that I could find). But they are a reflection of the libertarian and ultraconservative ideologies that underlie ALEC, AFP and KPI. While I don’t believe that Rep. Highland and Sen. Abrams are currently members of ALEC (though many Kansas legislators are), they have previously attended ALEC events and are sympathetic to the public education gutting agendas of ALEC, AFP and KPI.

It’s been increasingly bleak in Kansas since Brownback was elected in 2010. But Kansans are starting to wake up. Grassroots organizations like Game On for Kansas SchoolsWomen for KansasModerate Party of KansasMainstream Coalition and others are getting their message out across the state, and people are listening. More and more Kansans are stepping forward to challenge these ultraconservative legislators in the primary and general elections. I’m hopeful that after the fall elections, Kansas’s legislative landscape will have changed enough to halt progress on the ultraconservative agendas; maybe, dare I say, even form a veto-proof coalition on certain issues. I’m also hopeful that our legislative committee names will no longer have to serve as memorials to what’s being displaced or destroyed.

And by the way, HB 2741 is named Creating the school district finance and student success act. I guess the Breaking public education, increasing privatization, student success be damned act didn’t have quite the desired ring to it. It would certainly have been more descriptive though.

Marcel Harmon is the Vice President of the Board of Education in Lawrence, KS (USD #497), was previously a member of the Kansas Review Committee for the Next Generation Science Standards, has an interdisciplinary background in anthropology and engineering and works for a high performance building consulting firm. He frequently writes on education and aspects of the built environment from an anthropological perspective.
(This article first appeared in SALON®)

Brownback to poor: "if you get sick, quit your job"

Brownback to Poor: “if you get sick, quit your job”

For the working poor, Governor Brownback’s decision to not expand Medicaid sends them a real clear message, “if you get sick, quit your job.”  That’s the only way to qualify for health care coverage under KanCare, our version of Medicaid. Most Kansans agree that work is necessary for someone to make the most of their lives. Gov. Brownback has actually removed the incentives that would encourage Medicaid recipients to work. It’s stunningly poor policy-making.

With renewed calls for Congressman Paul Ryan to be named Speaker of the United States House of Representatives I found myself remembering some things he said about his vision for the way America structures her incentives. As the Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan said “we don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives," and just this past July at the Aspen Ideas Festival he elaborated by saying “The highest marginal tax rate is a single mom making $25,000 a year, who is losing $0.80 to $0.90 on the dollar when she tries to take a leap of faith and go work.”.

What Representative Ryan was implicitly acknowledging is that sometimes, in our rush to accountability, we create perverse incentives for people. This resonates with me. Tending to our livestock in the fields behind our home near Dodge City, I learned from my father what many southwest Kansans tell their sons, “haste makes waste”. Sitting in guard towers along the front lines of the war on terror as a young man I feared what complacency could do to a tired soldier, and worse, what it could do to those who depended on him. Serving on my local Board of Education I have witnessed what local government can do when thoughtful incentives are implemented and what state government can do when the opposite occurs. Government has a mixed track record when it intervenes in people’s lives, but one thing we know for sure, the way it structures incentives matters.

Remarkably, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback seems to have forgotten this lesson when it comes to Medicaid Expansion. For all the bad parts of the Affordable Care Act – and there are plenty of them – there are a few good ones. And Medicaid Expansion is actually one of the good parts – or at least it should be for Kansans. It allows states to expand access to Medicaid to fill gaps in coverage, covers 100% of costs of expanding coverage, and will cover 90% for the foreseeable future. But instead of taking that opportunity, Governor Brownback wants us to believe that expanding Medicaid will create a new class of dependent Kansans and calls it “morally reprehensible”. The reality is that not expanding Medicaid will also likely have that effect.

Other than Medicare for seniors, there are now two ways that the government helps Americans afford increasingly unaffordable healthcare coverage: Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Receiving Medicaid today is very difficult in Kansas, because our state has one of the lowest thresholds for Medicaid eligibility in America. For a family of three to qualify in 2014, total household income needed to be less than $618 per month. Adults without dependent children don’t qualify at all, regardless of their income level.

To receive Premium Assistance Credits through the Affordable Care Act, an individual or family must have a minimum income of at least 138% of the poverty level. That translates into just over $2,200 per month in household income. That leaves a significant coverage gap for the working poor – a mother, for instance, who is trying to go back to school to better her family’s life, while working a minimum wage job.

The question here is pretty simple: Do we encourage people to keep their job if they get sick, or do we maintain a system of perverse incentives that forces workers to quit their jobs to get health insurance, and potentially drags them into a life of dependency and complacency? We all know the answer to this, but does Governor Brownback?

 

Aaron Estabrook is a Post 9/11 Combat Veteran and Vice President of the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education and Founder of the Moderate Party of Kansas Movement

 

 

 

 

Mr. Brownback: Tear down this wall

Kansas public preschools are isolated and rare. Educators at all levels in Kansas are frustrated and fleeing.

As the dust settles from one of the worst legislative sessions in Kansas history, we acknowledge that class sizes are larger, we have a statewide teacher shortage bordering on crisis and we have cornered ourselves into a place where the State Board of Education finds it necessary to hire unlicensed people to educate our children.

I’ve been frustrated with our governor over many things but mostly about public education. I have learned in the military and also in various problem-solving roles like helping homeless veterans receive the care they deserve that treating the symptoms but ignoring the cause not only prolongs the problem but may actually exacerbate the stigma, the divisiveness and even spur the eventual collapse. The achievement gap doesn’t begin at third grade or high school but on the first day of kindergarten and it’s rooted in inequitable access to preschool. 

Our governor offers ideas and speaks passionately about improving reading scores, improving graduation rates and competing academically on a national level. For any of those admirable goals to be achieved he needs to simply get out of the way. His obstruction is isolating Kansas from its peers.

What he calls “innovation” looks a whole lot like the 1950s. The modern world has hit the accelerator on early education growth and investment. America is putting more than $2 billion into preschool development awards for states to compete. Innovation in 2015 means having higher standards and expecting more during a period of time when children are young and have the highest potential to learn and grow beyond anything we were able to do. We expect more from our children and we have to give them access to that opportunity.

Last year I asked the governor why he was blocking the application for Kansas to compete for more than 2 billion in preschool development dollars. He said he was waiting on the Legislature to make a decision. I spoke with the chair of the House Education Committee leading up to the session and asked him if he was ready to talk about the federal preschool development grants. Kansas had already missed the first deadline and the next one will be coming soon. Unfortunately, the representative said he had never heard of this and the governor’s office never mentioned anything about preschool development grants to him. 

I wasn’t surprised since Rep. Ron Highland (R-Wamego) had just recently been named chair of the House Education Committee. I assumed it was probably just that he hadn’t been informed quite yet. I watched with curiosity as the legislative session dragged on and yet not a single mention in the record long session for preschool development funding.

For the past 16 years our neighbor to the south, Oklahoma, has had universal public preschool for every 4-year-old in their state. Kansas has more than 40,000 4-year-olds who missed out on another guaranteed year of preschool while Oklahoma marches on and begins to see the success in their workforce.

If  you are still on the fence about “early education” investment, the research is in. All around the country Republican governors are using their authority to broaden and expand early education in their states. However, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has built a wall around early education by prohibiting development dollars for early investment and growth. Meanwhile, Kansans’ federal tax dollars are paying for early education initiatives in 18 other states: $226 million and over 18,000 additional children will be served in high-quality preschool programs in year one of the program. Not a single Kansan.

Due diligence has run its course. Brownback should tear down this wall and open our state to investments in early education, guaranteeing preschool for every 4-year-old in Kansas. If you do this, then your goal to improve third grade reading scores and high school graduation rates will become realized and not just another failed campaign promise.


 Aaron Estabrook is the Vice-Preisdent of the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education, in Manhattan Kansas. He is also the co-founder of the Moderate Party of Kansas movement. 

 

 

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Kobach To Defend Kansans from UFO's

Secretary Kobach has turned his attention to a new scourge that’s affecting thousands of Kansans – abductions of Kansas’ citizens by UFOs.  Kobach remarked, “95% of extreme conservatives responded affirmatively when asked the question, ‘would you be frightened if you were sucked up into a UFO’, clearly Kansans are very concerned about this issue.”  Kobach has asked the Kansas legislature to give him new powers to pursue these alien abductors. 

 

Fox News went on to point out that analysis also shows extremists aren’t the only ones concerned. 60% of those individuals diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics and 20% of survivalists are also concerned about these alien abductions.  Fox News has critically examined this issue since the Ebola virus was cured the day after the election in 2014.  They have confirmed that it’s a real threat to Kansas and America.

Secretary Kobach is already shouldering a huge burden on behalf Kansas citizens having recently taken on the obligation to prosecute all the voting fraud in Kansas.  He clearly, however, feels this issue of UFO abductions is equally compelling, “While voter fraud is a threat to our democracy, UFO abductions threaten the life and safety of every Kansan.”

Kobach went on to provide examples of both problems, pointing out that Tim Huelskamp only won re-election to his congressional seat by 73,367 votes.  Without voter fraud, that margin would have been 73,370 votes by Kobach’s analysis.  He also noted that he heard from a recent Kansas voter who claimed to have been abducted by a UFO, stating “I was smoking weed and the next thing I remembered I woke up with Dorito crumbs all over my face.  Clearly, I was abducted by aliens.”

Profit Driven Legislation Created Behind Closed Doors

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The Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, Ray Merrick is preparing to attend the ALEC- American Legislative Exchange Council’s 42nd annual meeting in San Diego, California on July 22nd through the 24th as a member of the host committee.

ALEC is an organization corrupting the democratic process in state legislatures throughout the country with model bills drafted behind closed doors to benefit the bottom line of corporations at the expense of the public.

Kansas is leading the parade among states in adopting ALEC’s fiscal policies with the help of Merrick and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle since both serve on ALEC’s board of directors.

Arthur Laffer, a prominent ALEC consultant, was paid $75,000 of tax payer money to tell Governor Brownback that repealing the income tax would help the economy. But Laffer’s theory has proven to be very bad advice as the state’s general operating fund faces an $800 million GAP in lost revenues.

In light of this serious fiscal crisis, why would Speaker Merrick continue to support model legislation from ALEC when he sees that Laffer’s flawed tax cut nonsense will have dramatic negative consequences for millions of Kansans when core programs like education and social services are cut to the bone within the next few months?

After searching the internet for possible answers, I purchased a  “Stand Up to ALEC” comprehensive report compiled by a group called ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy and finally found out why Merrick is so attached to ALEC.

Between the years 2000-2012, Merrick received campaign contributions totaling $75,100 from more than thirty corporate ALEC sponsors  including: Altria, AT&T, Atmos Energy, Bayer AG, Boeing, BP North America, BNSF Railway, Century Link, Coca Cola, Comcast, Conoco Phillips, Distilled Spirits Council of the US, Exon Mobil, Farmers Insurance Group, General Electric, General Motors, KC Power and Light,, Koch Chemical Technology Group, Koch Industries, Koch Supply & Trading, Kraft Foods, Medco Health Solutions, Pepsi Cola, Pfizer, Philip Morris,, Reynolds American, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, SBC Communications, SW Bell, and Sprint.

Mr. Merrick is not alone.  Other Kansas legislators listed who received corporate campaign contributions include:  Peggy Mast $42,975, Kyle Hoffman $7,350, Susan Wagle $118,000, Jeff King $28,750, Terry Bruce $46,550, Julia Lynn $48,697.95, and  Garrett Love $18,225. 

It should not come as a surprise that Koch Industries was a sponsor on every list.  The Source for the above information came from: National Institute of Money in Politics, accessed (4/17/14)

The majority of Kansans are unaware that ALEC and their corporate sponsors have played such a large role in their influence over some Kansas legislators who were elected to represent the citizens of Kansas and not the wishes of special interest groups. 

If Kansans want more transparency in legislative decisions, we should take a hard look at members of our legislature who are members of ALEC, and ask them why they belong to an organization who wants to cut taxes for corporations, shift taxes from wealthy households to the other state residents who can least afford the burden, and worst of all, impose rigid limits on state revenue and spending to permanently shrink education, health care and other public services.

Below is the list compiled from the report showing ALEC members from the Kansas House and Senate:

Kansas Senate Members listed on Page 5 of the Report:

Terry Bruce, Garrett Love, Mary Pilcher-Cook, Jim Denning, Julia Lynn, Larry Powell, Mitch Holmes, Ty Masterson, Dennis Pyle, Daniel Kerschen, Jeff Melcher, Susan Wagle, Jeff King, Ralph Ostmeyer, Forrest Knox, Mike Peterson

Kansas House Members listed on Page 5 of the Report:

Steve Alford, Rob Bruchman, Steve Brunk, Richard Carlson, J.R. Claeys, Travis Lovelady-Couture, Pete DeGraaf, Keith Esau, Randy Garber, Mario Goico, Amanda Grosserode, Gary Hayzlett, Dennis Hedke, Phil Hermanson, Kyle Hoffman, Steve Huebert, Kevin Jones, Lance Kinzer, Marvin Kleeb, Charles Macheers, Peggy Mast, Kelly Meigs, Ray Merrick, Marc Rhoades, John James Rubin, Ronald Ryckman, Don Schroeder, Scott Schwab, Sharon Schwartz, Joe Seiwert, Gene Sullentrop, James Todd

If your elected official is listed above, please contact that legislative member and ask, “Why are you involved with ALEC?”

 

To contact the author email: LarryWeigel@hotmail.com

"ALEC's corporate sponsors include Koch Industries with backup lobby support from the Kansas Policy Institute, Americans For Prosperity, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce..."

Most voters have no clue who ALEC is.  No, it’s not a reference to ALEC Baldwin. It's the “American Legislative Exchange Council”, a lobby group disguised as a 501 c (3) non-profit organization that caters to special corporate interests by serving as a “corporate dating service”.

 

ALEC brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators in a central location, like a fancy hotel, where they attend parities heavily subsidized by the same corporations that benefit from the introduction and passage of ALEC written bills the legislators take back to their home states.
 
ALEC legislative members receive ‘scholarships’ from corporate sponsors that amount to an all-expense paid vacation including families; so they can meet face-to-face with the donors to their political campaigns and vote together with these corporate sponsors to adopt model legislation, written to boost corporate profits.
 
Even though Kansas has strict rules for receiving lobbyist gifts, these lavish trips are disguised as "educational expenses."  Thirty two Kansas House representatives and sixteen Kansas State senators are listed as members of ALEC.
 
What's even more alarming, the Speaker of the Kansas House, Ray Merrick, and the President of the Senate, Susan Wagle, are members of ALEC's board of directors which includes board scholar member Art Laffer, who received a $75,000 consulting fee for his ALEC model tax cutting bill that is now bankrupting our state.  
 
During 2013-2014 fifteen (15) ALEC model bills were introduced in the Kansas Legislature including the controversial “Health Care Compact” Bill which included authority to take over the operation of Medicare by the Kansas legislature, using the block grant model that ALEC helped write. 
 
The ALEC penned Health Care Compact bill which passed in Kansas, was killed in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This Kansas approved Health Care Compact bill put more than 450,000 Kansas Medicare beneficiaries at risk and most Medicare folks had no idea the bill even passed.  
 
Attempts were made to remove Medicare from the bill, but legislators learned it would require approval from the other eight states who joined with Kansas in the compact.  This means our legislature's hands were tied because the bill was written by ALEC, using ALEC language in a cookie cutter bill that put ALEC in charge not allowing amendments to the bill leaving our elected officials standing on the sidelines not able to change a bill to represent the best interests of Medicare beneficiaries living in Kansans.  

 

ALEC’s privatizing of Medicaid model now called KanCare was successful as Governor Brownback signed the ALEC Medicaid bill into law.   KanCare has lost millions of dollars during its first two years of operation.
 
Now during a time when our state is facing the most serious financial crisis in its history, Speaker Merrick is allowing ALEC to write a letter on his behalf, as an ALEC host, to send out invitations to prospective corporate sponsors so the fun and games can be resumed in San Diego, California on July 22-24th.
 
Please open the attachment and read the letter sent from michelle@donerfundraising.com using Rep. Ray Merick as the author of the email.  Note Merrick's name was misspelled.
 
Mr. Merrick has agreed to be a member of the host committee, and lets the sponsor know he or she can give anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 to "educate our members on your platform, both during the conference and in the months ahead."
 
ALEC's corporate sponsors include Koch Industries with backup lobby support from the Kansas Policy Institute, Americans For Prosperity, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce who are strong advocates to block Medicaid Expansion, promote privatization of education and continue to support the tax exemption for pass through business owners even though our state's general budget is dealing with an $800 million gap between revenue and expenses as was recently reported in a May 20, 2015 news release by former Kansas budget director Duane Goossen, who now works for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

 

As a Kansas voter who cares about the future of our state, I am outraged that the top leadership within our legislature continues to embrace the ALEC legislative models for the future, when the current ALEC “Trickle Down” tax cut model has created the $800 million dollar GAP of lost revenue in our state general operating fund.

 

Larry Weigel

 

 


 

 

Bleeding Kansas Revenue Shortfall Will Require Grassroots Leadership To Deal with Crisis

Recently former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, fumbled the ball when Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly asked him: “(On the subject of Iraq), knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion? Bushsaid, “I would have.”  

But after Bush was blasted by his opponents for his yes answer, he used his mulligan on the Sean Hannity show and said, “I interpreted the question wrong, I guess.”

A similar question is being asked throughout the state of Kansas. Only this question is not about Iraq.  It’s about a revenue war being played out by Governor Brownback, the legislature and the Kansans left fearingthe worst if it is not resolved.

Here’s the question!

Knowing what we know now about our states’ $800 million dollar revenue shortfall and projected loss of $3.7 billion future tax dollars, would you have authorized the largest tax cut in the State’s history?

Governor Brownback continues to answer the question, “I would have.”

In spite of getting lawmakers to fill part of the gap by: transferring an additional $132 million from the highway fund, $72 million from other funds, and stopping a planned transfer of $54 million from the general-fund to a local government tax deduction fund, Duane Goossen, former budget director under three former Kansas governors said, “Most of those transfers are short-term solutions, not ongoing revenue, and if approved would lower the FY2016 gap to about $540 million.”

“In addition, lawmakers have been debating whether to increase the fee that managed care companies pay to operate in Kansas,” Goossen said. “Passage is still uncertain, but if implemented the proceeds would be used to draw down additional federal Medicaid funds and close the budget gap by another $60 million or so.”

But here’s an assumption that may not happen. Goossen said, “Then if $50 or $60 million carries over from FY2015, (a big if at this point), the “gap” would be a little over $400 million-the amount that lawmakers are trying to cover with new taxes.”

Kansans can anticipate dramatic cuts to social programs that make up more than 90 percent of the general-fund operating budget including 63 percent for education, 4.3 percent for transportation, 0.3% for Human Services and 27 percent for public safety.

Let’s review how we got in this mess. Who is behind it? And, what Kansans must do to get involved now.

How did we get in this mess?

Governor Brownback started the process by calling on the legislature to eliminate the income tax in his “State of the State” message during January of 2012.  

The Kansas House of Representatives accommodated the Governor’s wishes and passed a bill cutting individual income tax rates and exempting pass-through business owner income from being taxed at all.

Former senate president, Steve Morris, sent the bill to his senate tax-committee. The supporters of the tax bill on the senate committee lobbied hard for the House bill’s passage.  Ultimately, they prevailed. The senate tax-committee recommended what the House had passed with a few modifications.

Morris and senate moderates defeated the committee’s recommendation with a 20-20 vote. While presiding in the senate, Morris received a phone call from Governor Brownback.

Morris left the senate chamber to take the call in his office. Brownback told Morris this tax policy, as is, would bankrupt the state. Brownback went on to suggest that if Morris helped get the bill through the Senate, they would work together to fix it in the conference committee and pass a bill that didn’t bankrupt the state.

Morris hesitated at first, but told me it’s pretty hard for a Republican senate leader to say no to a Republican governor. Morris got the votes in the senate to reconsider and sent the bill back over to the House. In hindsight, Morris acknowledged that trusting the Governor and passing the tax bill was a huge mistake on his part.

Governor Brownback, however had a different plan than the one he committed to with Morris. The Governor went to the House Republican caucus and asked them to concur with what the senate had passed. This would bypass the need for a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the bills and all but ensure the fiscal nightmare the state faces today.

As the senate debated a more modest tax-cut approved by a conference committee; the House Republican Speaker, Mike O’Neal, brought up the tax bill for a vote. O’Neal received harsh criticism by other House Republicans for going against the rules of his own chamber to speed up passage of the bill.

To expedite passage of the bill, O’Neal used a parliamentary procedure to cut off debate including changes and explanations of votes. This must have seemed like a scene out of the popular TV series “House of Cards”, where actor, Frank Underwood, passed a bill using the same tactics in a fictional episode, which makes one wonder just how much truth is portrayed in the “House of Cards” series.

It became obvious, The House and governor didn’t want anything to do with Morris’s tax bill revision ideas.

During his plea to keep the House bill alive, Governor Brownback told Morris the bill would then go to a joint conference committee and become a law that all could agree on, which never happened. 

“I believe he never intended to bring the bill to conference because he wanted to make a bold statement with his original intention to cut income taxes,” Morris said.

The House complied with the Governor’s request to concur and Brownback signed the bill into law during May of 2012.

Morris said, “The governor just flat out lied to us and stabbed us in the back.” 

The Governor’s betrayal of Morris was the first shot fired across the bow to start a civil war within the Kansas Republican Party. The divide widened when Governor Brownback, with the help of dark money, purged 20 moderate Republicans during their primary elections in the fall of 2012. 

Morris received the brunt of vicious false attacks from outside influences in his defeat with funds provided by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, American’s for Prosperity, and a now defunct group called KanPac (Kansans for a true Republican Majority).

O’Neal, retired from the legislature and was rewarded for his efforts when he was hired during September of 2012 to become President and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a group who is a strong advocate for Governor Brownback’s aggressive income tax cut experiment.

Who continues to set the agenda based on their influence and power over the irrational Republican decision makers in the Kansas Legislature?

Almost all legislative bills and decisions have the stamp of one or more of the following groups:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

ALEC is a corporate dating service organization who gathers once a year to bring together corporate leaders, lobbyists, and state and federal legislators to primarily influence legislation favorable to their corporate interests.  Speaker of the House Ray Merrick and Senate president Susan Wagle are both on their board of directors.

Speaker Merrick, a member of the host committee for ALEC’s 42nd annual meeting to be held in San Diego during July, recently sent out a fund raising letter to seek gifts of $5,000 to $100,000 from corporate sponsors noting that sponsorships allow an opportunity to “educate legislative members on your platform.”

Merrick, (whose name was misspelled) said in his letter that “free market legislatures hold 68 chambers across the U.S.”  ALEC continues to influence legislatures with model bills that promote free market solutions including their strategy to torpedo Obama Care by blocking the expansion of Medicaid.

Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries are among ALEC’s most influential corporate donors.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP)

This is a Koch brothers’ funded operation with a motto to “leave our children with more financial security by putting brakes on government spending.”  AFP has pushed hard for income tax cuts and to stop the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas.

State director, Jeff Glendening, called the exemption for LLC’s (Limited Liability Companies) a great move to bring in small businesses. He also said, “Americans for Prosperity hopes the state marches on to a zero income tax for all businesses and individuals.”

Kansas Policy Institute (KPI)

Dave Trabert, the primary lobbyist for the group opposes government spending and works closely with ALEC.  Trabert speaks for the Friedman Foundation in promoting private educational choices. KPI supported the income tax cuts and opposes the expansion of Medicaid.

Kansas Chamber of Commerce

This organization supported the aggressive tax cut legislation and opposes the expansion of Medicaid.  President and CEO, Mike O’Neal, believes more tax cuts are in order.  

Democratic House member, Jarrod Ousley, of Merriam, told me, “These four groups stifle discussion on budget matters, and all issues that come before the legislature are decided by one or more of the groups.”

What can citizens do to restore fiscal responsibility in the Legislature?

1. Ban legislators from lobbying for a period of time after leaving office.

  • a. Pass anti-corruption laws that prohibit lawmakers from receiving money from those companies or organizations they      represent.

2. Get more transparency in governing by allowing debate and input.
  • a. Install cameras and live-streaming capabilities into the statehouse chamber and committee meetings.
  • b. Stop Gut and Go tactics because theystifle honesty and eliminate debate. House bill 2258 began as a non-controversial mortgage definition which passed 121-0, but was gutted in the senate and used as a shell to insert new Medicaid rules including a controversial $25 limit per day on an ATM withdrawals, which may now cost the state $102 million in federal block grant money because it limits access to benefits and requires recipients to pay frequent withdrawal fees.
  • c. Moderate Republican, Rep. Mellissa Rooker, from Fairway, explained in her newsletter, the bill was debated for six hours on the senate floor with many amendments added, and passed 30-10 at 2:30 p.m. on April 2nd.  One hour later it was up for a motion on the House floor with no opportunity to amend or time to read its contents since the original House version was not open for debate, just an up and down vote.  
3. Organize grass roots networks to educate and involve voters prior to the 2016 legislative elections.

 

Summary:

Governor Brownback’s dramatic income tax cutexperiment has created a severe revenue crisis that willaffect the quality of life for millions of Kansans.  Removing moderate Republicans from the legislature using sleazy campaign tactics, has caused dissention, lack of trust, and a breakdown in compromise opportunities.

Legislation continues to be influenced by special interest groups without regard to the wishes of the majority of Kansas citizens. Not expanding Medicaid is an example.

Solving the revenue issue remains a stalemate because nine Republican House members and eleven Republican senate members signed pledges to oppose tax increases at any cost.  

This means disastrous budget cuts will occur with terrible consequences for education, governmental services and the future viability of the state.

Citizens need to rally, get involved and become informed as to which legislators represent what is best for all Kansans rather than bending to the wishes of special interest- groups, and then vote accordingly in the 2016 statewide elections.

Larry Weigel, founder of  a national Medicare consulting business lives in Manhattan, KS and believes Kansans must become involved in the political process to make the necessary changes in the radical leadership within the Kansas legislature by participating in a grassroots statewide effort.

Contact information

Email:  larryweigel@hotmail.com

 

Tim Huelskamp only listens to Tim Huelskamp

Last week, Congressman Tim Huelskamp (KS-1) went on record as saying that the Pope should stick to the “non-negotiables like abortion, gay marriage and the like”. This is an ironic turnabout for the Kansas Congressman who only last spring demanded that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts “Follow his Catholic Doctrine” when making rulings in the highest court in the land. A devout Catholic such as Huelskamp is well aware that Catholic Doctrine dictates that the Holy Father is both infallible and is the chief representative of God Almighty. To suggest that the Pope is wrong or to limit his speech to topics the Congressman is more comfortable with strikes firmly in the face of Catholic Doctrine and respect for the Holy Father. This disrespect is ironic since prior to serving his entire adult life in political office, Huelskamp studied to become a member of the clergy, having attended seminary in New Mexico after high school. He never became ordained however, having been asked to leave in his second year of attendance. Huelskamp went even further in his critique of the Holy See by saying that “there is not a Catholic (solution for hunger and poverty) contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican.”

This should come as no surprise to many Kansas voters who have watched their congressman repeatedly get into confrontations and ultimately lose credibility and high profile positions. He was summarily ejected from the House Agriculture committee during his first term, a seat which has forever been occupied by the representative from the Big First due to his behavior on the committee. While he brags to constituents incessantly that it was a decision made by Speaker of the House John Boehner, it is common knowledge on the Hill that every sitting member on that committee demanded Huelskamp’s ouster because he lacked the ability to listen to other members and behave in a manner appropriate to a U.S. House committee. Ultimately, Speaker Boehner had very little to do with the action which was decided by the Republican House Steering Committee. Huelskamp also lost his seat on the House Budget Committee, a very prestigious and influential committee for a freshman congressman. This wasn’t even Huelskamp’s first round of committee ejections. He lost several key committees while serving in the Kansas Senate for exactly the same behavior. Huelskamp is quite proud of the fact that “many folks in D.C. don’t want me there”, something that most colleagues in Topeka tend to agree with.

In ag circles, Huelskamp is famous for making enemies and refusing to listen to others who may have more knowledge on policy. Shortly after winning the House seat, Huelskamp waged a very public attack on Professor Barry Flinchbaugh, a K-State Professor Emeritus, author of multiple Federal Farm Bills and America’s leading authority on Ag policy. Flinchbaugh was given notice that his days of influence were officially over and that he had no voice in Huelskamp’s policy. He also had a very aggressive battle with leadership in the Kansas Livestock Association and last year was officially un-endorsed by the Kansas Farm Bureau, something which has never happened to an incumbent congressman. He even got into a very public fight with the CEO of one of his district’s largest ethanol processors over support and policy matters and was quoted as saying, “I’ll make you pay when I get back to D.C.”

Huelskamp famously brags that he doesn’t work for anyone in Washington D.C., he works for hard-working Kansans, which begs the question: Which Kansans? Certainly not the farmers. He also is noteworthy for his record number of Kansas town hall meetings, over 280 at last count. What Kansans ought to know though, is that they pay for each and every one of those meetings. Huelskamp receives over $1.4 Million dollars annually, in addition to his $174,000 salary, in a Member Representation Allowance. The majority of this money goes to flight coupons to and from D.C. every Thursday night and Monday morning. It also pays for travel expenses and refreshments that Huelskamp provides at these sparsely attended events. Anyone attending is confronted at the door by young staffers collecting personal contact information so that they can be solicited for donations weekly and bombarded by robo-calls for the Congressman’s reelection. These meetings work far better as campaign events in that no new topics seem to ever be discussed other than how corrupt Washington is and how our Congressman is the only honest member on Capitol Hill fighting for liberty. To date, Congressman Huelskamp has cost taxpayers well over $6 Million in ‘Representation’ money and this does not include his six-figure salary, the ObamaCare coverage his family currently has, the cost of his U.S. House access nor the million’s raised and spent by the Congressman for re-election. It is well worth questioning if he’s worth the price tag considering the 3 term Congressman has neither been personally responsible for passing a single authored bill nor for repealing any others.

Now, for the our nation’s strongest defender of Religious Liberty, Faith and Family Values to be dismissive of His Holiness, the Pope, unquestionably the highest authority on the Catholic Faith, one must question whether Tim Huelskamp is capable of listening to anyone anywhere on anything.  

Concerned voter and practicing Catholic.

40 Thousand Pathways to the American Dream

When it was ratified, the Kansas Constitution acknowledged the responsibility of the state to provide a uniform system of common schools and schools of higher grades for its people. Even before Kansas was officially a state, pioneers settling in harsh conditions pooled their limited resources to build our iconic one-room schoolhouses and hired a teacher. They knew then what we know now. Public Education is the foundation of civilization. As the needs of America expanded so too did the requirements and expectations of our public schools. 

Earlier this year, I joined Kansans from across the state and marched more than 60 miles to our state capitol to raise awareness of the political assault on our public schools.  Upon arriving, I sat in the statehouse and said to those gathered that we are fighting a war that we did not start, but it is a fundamental right that we aim to protect for generations to come.

In 2012, Kansas lawmakers at the behest of Gov. Brownback set the stage for the assault on public education by implementing a tax structure that is unsustainable. He called it an experiment. The structure made it possible for the top earners to pay no income tax while middle and low income Kansans pay into the pool while receiving less services. State revenues have steeply declined and public education has been on the chopping block like never before.  Much of this economic mismanagement is defended by thick ideological rhetoric, while facts and reality are dismissed. Real leadership would require introspection and figurative heads to roll for the self-inflicted crisis we now find ourselves in.

Over 40,000 Kansas children will enter kindergarten in August. My daughter is one of them. On a recent trip to a local hardware store she joined me with a few dollars she had earned doing chores around our home. To my amazement, she wanted to buy a small ladder. Her rationale was that she could do more chores and earn more if she could reach higher. Today, in Kansas our state government has created a system of taxation that allows for those who have climbed the economic ladder to pull it up from behind and relish in their treasure.

Each rung on the ladder to the American Dream is laden in education and knowledge. Every dollar we invest now in early education gives children a better chance and saves taxpayers eight dollars later on. It simultaneously opens the door to more employment and higher incomes for working parents today.  The evidence is undeniable that investment in education and expansion of early education is key to fulfilling the tacit goal of America, to ensure that our children can have a better life than we did.

A year ago, Gov. Brownback toured the state and repeatedly said he would fully fund all-day kindergarten. Ever since the “K” was placed in K-12 Public Schools, it has been funded at a half time rate. Nearly all Kansas schools teach kindergarten all day, requiring local school districts to pick up the tab on the other half. Gov. Brownback reneged on his promise.

Last summer, school districts across the state put together an application to apply for “Pre-School Development” grants from the U.S. Dept. of Education. America was about to invest hundreds of millions in pre-school or pre-K programs, and Kansas educators wanted to be ready. Then last fall, Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application, the final step in the process. $226 million was awarded to other states in December and Kansas would have been poised to receive between $15-20 million for pre-school development, but one man stood in the way of more than 40,000 four year olds receiving that opportunity.  Pre K-12 should be the standard for Kansas, for the last 16 years every child in Oklahoma has been guaranteed a pre-school education.

To this day we have no clear answer why Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application to compete for those funds with the rest of America. No economic logic makes sense, so we must conclude that it was an ideological decision. Soon our Supreme Court will rule on the adequacy and equity of our public schools. Evidence points to underfunding, complicated by the extreme ideological decisions by lawmakers who want to pull that economic ladder up from behind them.  I personally have witnessed the impact of extreme ideology as a soldier in Afghanistan. My generation has fought two wars and toppled two governments that were built on extreme ideology. Coming back to Kansas from those wars I never expected to be in the midst of another battle being instigated by extreme ideologues in Topeka. One thing is certain; this generation will not tolerate it. We have sacrificed too much and those extremists in Topeka need to understand that what they have done is simply wake a sleeping giant in form of parents, educators, and moderates all across our state.

Aaron Estabrook serves on the Board of Education in USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden and founded the Moderate Party of Kansas in 2012.  

 

Aaron_with_Daughter_at_PreSchool.jpg

Aaron with his daughter at her Pre-School in 2014

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Finding the means to erase a budget deficit, Kansas legislators and their political allies are proposing new revenue sources. One such effort was featured in Steve Rose’s weekly conservative viewpoint column in the Sunday, April 19th Kansas City Star. http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/steve-rose/article18804195.html  Rose reported on a conversation with Senator Jim Denning (Overland Park Republican), a first-termer in the Senate and one-term former House member. Jim’s list of budget fixes (complete with his own revenue estimates) contains eleven in number. Due to his position as a budget conference committee member and vice-chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, his ideas should get serious consideration from his partners in legislative malfeasance. Let’s look at five more of his ideas.

Tax Non-resident Business Income 

The Rose article claims that plugging “a loophole” by modifying the “passive income tax law” would cause business income earned in Kansas by non-residents to be taxed. The article doesn’t give any more explanation for this gambit. I thought non-residents already were taxed on income from their Kansas business dealings. Silly me! What I would like to have explained was why this “loophole” has been allowed to exist in the first place. Whatever the real story is, this item is said to be worth $50 million towards a balanced budget.

Medicaid Policy Changes

Coming from a Senator whose occupation is “Health Care Administrator”, I am not surprised that “pharmaceutical changes” without reduction in services is suggested. I suspect this idea has met prior resistance, because it may involve black-listing certain drugs that doctors prescribe and stingy state bureaucrats deem too expensive for a Medicaid enrollee. It is touted as a 50 million savings in Medicaid costs. 

Tighten Medicaid Eligibility Error Rate

Hey, nobody’s perfect. In Rose’s article, “Denning says the error rate in Kansas is 12.3 percent versus a national average of 3 percent. Bringing that down 2 percentage points would yield $26 million a year.” Well, if that’s true, then bringing it down to the national average would bring in $120.9 million more per year. This raises the question: who is doing the eligibility screening, the state Medicaid agency or its Kancare contractors?  Fewer Medicaid enrollees would be a disincentive for the Kancare contractors. Is this a major flaw in the Kancare program? With the concern for school efficiency, I am surprised that a blue-ribbon committee hasn’t been charged with the task of rooting out Kancare waste the same way that schools were analyzed. Perhaps, Denning’s estimate is do-able, so I’ll stick with it despite my overall misgivings for this error rate reduction. This change is supposedly worth $26 million.

Increase Managed Care Organization Privilege Tax

Raising the charge for doing business on the three Kancare contractors to 5% from 1% would increase Medicaid costs, but not to fear: the federal matching funds that support most of the cost of Medicaid would be tapped to off-set the cost to the providers. Talk about “creative financing”, this is the epitome of fiscal daring-do. The State of Kansas would dink the Federal Treasury for additional money. I suspect this gambit would require approval in Washington, D.C., so it’s spurious at best. This proposal has blown up into a full-fledged brouhaha, which can be found at the Kansas City Star article: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article19197315.html. Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t count on this proposal for any help. 

KPERS Bond Arbitrage

Floating state bonds to get capital to fund KPERS future liabilities for pension payments would increase the amount of monetary assets for investment. Although not arbitrage in the technical sense, this ploy is estimated to earn returns from capital gains and dividends (7.5%) greater than bond interest costs (4.33%), resulting in an annual profit. The first problem is that this approach robs Peter (KPERS) to pay Paul (State general fund) and defeats part of the purpose of the bond issue, greater solvency for KPERS unfunded liabilities. The second problem is that it depends on the investment securities market, which may not provide the return sought each year. The use of bonds with their annual debt service costs to bolster KPERS is itself questionable, which makes this proposed revenue source allegedly worth $30 million less attractive.

The end result of Denning’s tax increase book-keeping ploys is still short of the mark needed to balance the budget. It provides no restoration of the surplus mandated by state law. It will probably not be as well received as, according to Rose, Denning hopes it will be. Let’s just hope that Rose’s parenthetical comment, “I would add that critics who call for (tax cut) repeal are out of touch with reality and are wasting their energy.” is the outlier and eventually sanity, prudence and stewardship will return to Topeka and prevail.

 

Denning's Tax Increases

Denning’s Tax Increase Proposals

Finding the means to erase a $600 million budget deficit, Kansas legislators and their political allies are proposing new revenue sources. One such effort was featured in Steve Rose’s weekly conservative viewpoint column in the Sunday, April 19th Kansas City Star. http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/steve-rose/article18804195.html  Rose reported on his conversation with Senator Jim Denning (Overland Park Republican), a first-termer in the Senate and one-term former House member. Denning’s list of budget fixes (complete with his own revenue estimates) are eleven in number. Due to his position as a budget conference committee member and vice-chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Rose thinks his ideas should get serious consideration from his partners in legislative malfeasance. Let’s look at his ideas that directly affect taxpayers.

Fix the LLC exemption “Loophole”

Denning (per Rose) claims the current law does not reflect legislative intent, which was always to tax business owners wages and allow only “non-wage” income to pass through tax-free. Unfortunately, there are no prior statements of intent to support this claim. Nor was the “loophole” hard to find, being touted by the Governor as a job creator. Business owners decided they didn’t need taxable wage income reported on a W-2 and were more than happy to accept tax-free dividend income reported on a 1099. Actually, the number of such tax savers was explained as being larger than anticipated, which destroys the intent argument. The unintended “loophole” claim is a case of buyer’s remorse or face-saving on the part of Denning and others who share this viewpoint. But, if reversing it helps stop the hemorrhaging of revenue, give Denning credit for raising the issue and voicing his misgivings for fellow legislators to chime in on. The suggested deficit reduction to be obtained is estimated at $110 million, but who knows how that will work out, if this is passed and approved.

Raise the Sales Tax back to 6.3% from 6.15%   

Legislative justification for this sales tax bump will be that it is not really a tax increase. Rather, it is merely the restoration of a tax rate that had been previously set as an emergency measure and is needed again. The Republicans in charge will take credit for giving Kansans a two year sales tax holiday of 0.15% and will suggest that, as soon as the Brownback/Laffer tax cut plan works, they’ll reverse it. Don’t hold your breath. The major objection to this sales tax increase is its regressive impact on lower income residents. However, I’m having trouble objecting too strenuously to the small sales tax increase, when city governments are quick to add a penny or more to the sales tax for improvement districts. The suggested deficit reduction from this move is estimated at $55 million, but who knows how that will work out, if it is passed and approved.

Raise the Gasoline Tax by 5 Cents per Gallon

Kansas presently collects 24 cents per gallon on gasoline sales. Raising it by 5 cents per gallon would still keep it below the national average of state gasoline taxes of 30.1 cents per gallon. One problem with this idea is that the increase, if applied to a general revenue shortage, will not help construct and maintain highways. It will only allow the state highway funds to be further pillaged. Also, gasoline taxes like other consumption taxes are regressive. A savings grace is the user charge aspect of a per gallon tax, provided it is used only for highways. Denning says this could reduce the deficit by $80 million, although others have set the take at $100 million.

Itemized Deduction Reduction

A 50% slashing of the amount of deductions to offset taxable income already scheduled for January 1, 2017, and could generate more revenue for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2015, if implemented now. Despite creating a special income tax calculation for half a year, it would be relatively simple to implement with low cost. No matter how this is explained, it is a tax increase, which it isn’t if the income tax should someday reach zero, as planned by Brownback. The 50% cut in deductions was also planned to accompany a further reduction in the income tax rates. Upper income people are already limited in federal income tax deductions which carries over to state returns.  The rate reduction for upper income tax payers could more than offset a reduced deduction, but would not have the same effect for lower and middle income filers. This change is guessed at picking up $50 million toward a balanced budget.

Tax Amnesty

Given the incentive of forgiveness of penalties and interest, it is estimated that a one-time bump in income tax receipts could be achieved from “late filers” who are enticed to join the ranks of taxpaying citizens. This is in the temporary fix category and is not a solid budgeting tool. It should be used only to add to a rainy day fund or budget surplus, not as an annual source of income. This might bring in $30 million, according to Denning’s sources.

E-Cigarette Tax

Rose writes, “Denning does see an opportunity to raise $5 million to $10 million in taxes on e-cigarettes.” My initial reaction is amazement that this tax hasn’t already been enacted. Perhaps, the legislators have been spending too much time on social issues and not keeping a sound fiscal house. Wow, that’s an understatement. The e-cigarette tax is estimated at $10 million.

The end result of Denning’s six tax increase proposals is still short of the estimated infusion of revenue needed to balance the budget. It provides no restoration of the surplus mandated by state law. It will probably not be as well received as, according to Rose, Denning hopes it will be. Let’s just hope that Rose’s parenthetical comment, “I would add that critics who call for (tax cut) repeal are out of touch with reality and are wasting their energy.” is the outlier and eventually sanity, prudence and stewardship will return to Topeka and prevail.

Brownback’s Unfair Class discriminatory Tax Law Shifts Tax Burden to Wage Earners

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback used an experimental and controversial tax cut legislation model drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and signed into law one of the largest income tax cuts in Kansas history during May of 2012.

 

The law eliminated income taxes for (non waged based) business owners believing it would create jobs and stimulate the economy.  The Kansas revenue department estimated there would be about 190,000 tax exempt business income filers affected, but failed to include 53,055 business farm returns in their total estimate.

 

The estimate was understated by not counting the farmers and other business entities. As a result, 333,000 Kansas tax exempt business filers paid no state income tax in 2013.   Dismal revenue forecasts to adequately fund existing core programs continue to alarm Kansans including some Brownback supporters in the legislature as $700 million in revenue shortfalls are predicted for the next two fiscal years.

 

Supporters of the Brownback’s tax bill estimated a decrease in tax revenues by about $160 million. But according to information provided in Bryan Lowry’s February 22, 2015, Kansas City Star article, the no tax for a special class of business entities, cost the state more than $206.8 million in lost tax revenues during 2013.

 

The legislative research staff estimated budget shortfalls will grow to $2.5 billion by July of 2018 when the bill was first passed.

 

Kansas Revenue secretary, Nick Jordon explained in Lowry’s article, “In tax year 2013 there were 8,666 new filers representing $464.6 million in new income, which was proof the policy was working and growing businesses.”

 

Jordon’s estimate was based on 2009 data assuming four years of growth in small businesses being responsible for his reported success story.  But in the same article, Lowry wrote, “It is difficult to get concrete data showing the business tax exemption is responsible for job growth because the Kansas Department of Labor said it does not track the number of employees at tax-exempt businesses."

 

And, the revenue department said, it had limited data on the number of sole proprietorships operating in the state at the time the bill passed which was obvious when 53,055 business farm returns, and another 90,000 tax exempt business entities were not included when the revenue loss estimates were calculated before final action was taken on the bill.

 

Based on this information, Governor Brownback has no way of knowing how many  business related new jobs are being created without reliable data available on sole proprietorships , with no program in place for the  Department of Labor to track the number of employees in tax exempt business operations.

 

My guess is very few sole proprietors are creating new jobs with their windfall tax exempt income because there are many mom and pop sole proprietorships especially in farming where the spouse can be hired as an employee get deductible health benefits for the family, and keep the books which is good business practice, but very little opportunity if any for new job creation.

 

Large corporate farming S-corporations have the expense write offs before generating hefty profits, and pay no tax. In some cases sole proprietors can join a firm and offer to pay the owner of the corporation for support services including staff to escape hiring their own employees.

 

For example, I am a sole proprietor and pay no state income tax, but will not use my tax exempt gift from the governor to create job growth because I work in a system that will do it for me if the overall business expands through increased revenues and services with a need to hire more people.

 

Cutting taxes for 333,000 tax exempt business filers will not create jobs.  A demand for business services and value creation resulting in increased revenues will expand growth and create jobs.

 

I and twenty three (23) other sole proprietors are affiliated as independent contractors working under a C-Corporation business where the owner is President and the rest of us are Associates with freedom to operate our business in coordination with overall company goals.

 

The owner created the C-corporation as a repository to accumulate income and record all business expenses including wages for support staff. The C-corporations were not included in Brownback’s’ tax exemption but it becomes a moot point since most C-corporations operate like a shell where retained earnings are kept at a minimal amount for taxation purposes when the business is transferred or sold, while revenues are drained down to an IRS acceptable taxable amount each year before the Corporation files a tax return.

 

Contrary to what you have heard, a corporation is not a person.  It’s an imaginary legal shell to move income in, deduct expenses and then start the process over each fiscal year.  Many business owners have moved away from the C-corporation model to become S-corporations.

 

As sole proprietors where I work, we assign a percentage of our earned income to the firms’ C-corporation revenue account in exchange for use of staff, computers, copy machines, office space, phones and supplies. 

 

It’s a great arrangement because we work as a team to build the company’s business and use the economy of scale to minimize our expenses and still be profitable without all the headaches of hiring staff, and maintaining overhead that would cost way more if we operated on our own.

 

At the end of the year, we receive a 1099- IRS income statement minus the amount we paid to the C-corporation for overhead expenses to use company services. 

We can deduct other business expenses incurred outside of the C-corporation including car expense, travel, business meals and supplies before we report our net business income on our own tax return. We pay no Kansas income tax and pocket the money without hiring any new employees.

 

Now multiply this arrangement not only by the number of unknown sole proprietors in Kansas, but also S-corporations, limited liability corporations, and partnerships.

As Lowry reported, the 333,000 number does not reflect the number of businesses benefiting from the tax exempt policy, but represents the number of tax exempt tax filers.

 

There is a huge difference comparing a tax filer with a business owner who has the authority to expand a given business.

 

If a large business practice has multiple business partners, whether it be law, dental, medical, engineering, farming, accounting, architecture or any other professional practice, each business partner must file an individual tax return which will be counted separately.

 

Governor Brownback has created a monster without a system in place to keep score to monitor his experiment. Now the wealthiest citizens in Kansas pay no tax while their wage earner employees many on limited fixed incomes take on the tax burden.  This is class discrimination at the workplace and grossly unfair to many hard working Kansans.

 

I met recently with several clients who have followed a financial plan we developed for them twenty five years ago at age 21 or when they were first married. Now they have children ready for college with their most expensive years ahead.

 

As a result of doing all the right things by buying adequate life insurance, maxing out their 401-k retirement plans, buying Roth IRA’s, 529 college savings plans, and working long hours to achieve success in their business careers- making high six figure wage earner income, so their spouses could be home raising their children, they are now being treated unfairly.

 

My high income non- business owner clients paid state income taxes in 2013 totaling $8000 to $10,000 while I and 332,000 other Kansans paid none. My office assistant and all of our wage earners in the office paid more tax than any of the business owners in our company and that is just wrong.

 

I urge all Kansans who are part of this class discrimination group to contact your legislators and show some outrage because you are being treated unfairly while the rest of us who pay no tax and create no new jobs sit by and watch it happen.

 

Larry Weigel, 1809 Kingwood Dr. Manhattan, Ks. 66502  larryweigel@hotmail.com

Gov Brownback's "Timeout" - Education Finance Wars

 Teacher_Notes.jpg

 

 

From: Melika.Willoughby@ks.gov

Subject: Explained: Kansas Education Funding
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:02:41 +0000

Fellow Kansans,

We’d like to share a few pertinent facts on education funding.
· Governor Brownback is committed to investing in education
· He is working to fix a broken education funding formula so more money gets into the classroom to benefit Kansas students
· K-12 spending is $177 million more this school year than last. (And that is after the recent 1.5% allotment from K-12)
· The Governor has increased funding to K-12 education every year since taking office
· Currently, Kansas schools have more than $370 million in reserves to help them cover this small reduction in increased funding over the next four months

The Governor has requested a timeout in the education finance wars. The current education funding formula needs reform to ensure more money goes to the classroom to benefit Kansas students. Realizing the legislative process takes time, the Governor also has recommended a sunset to the current school finance formula effective July 1, so he can work with the Legislature on reforming K-12 financing with a new - and sustainable - formula. Until a new formula becomes law, Governor Brownback recommends use of a block grant to distribute state education funding. The Governor’s proposal would have school districts funded at the currently approved Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 funding levels - which includes weightings found in the current formula.

The purchase of a $48,000 piano was an excellent example of the problems with the current school funding formula since the capital outlay funds used to purchase it could not be used in other ways, for example to hire teachers or provide them with raises. The block grant would combine some of the current finance formula funds into one, including capital outlay funds, and would provide districts more flexibility in how they can spend their money.

We hope this information helps you understand why the Governor is taking these actions.

Best,

Melika Willoughby
Deputy Communications Director
Office of Governor Sam Brownback

Read more

The Fallout from Election and What's Next...

Latest Piece From Larry Weigel "The Medicare Coach"

 

Politics in Kansas Prevailed over Truth in the 2014 Election

By Larry Weigel, 11-10-14

 

In the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nicholson shouted from the witness stand, “You can’t handle the truth,” as he sparred with fellow actor Tom Cruise in that memorable court room scene.

 

Just like Cruise, the majority of Kansas voters “couldn’t handle the truth” as they elected Republican Governor Sam Brownback to another four year term along with the Republican candidates for Congress, the U.S. senate, Secretary of state, Insurance commissioner, and other Republicans who maintained their majority in both houses of the Kansas Legislature. 

 

Brownback’s poor record on funding education, signing the Health Care Compact law to privatize Medicare, providing generous tax breaks for the wealthy, his vicious un-Christian like personal attacks on his opponent Paul Davis, and persistent denial that his tax cut experiment will create severe revenue shortfalls and lead to massive budget cuts, seemed like enough truth to replace him with Democrat challenger Paul Davis.

 

But, Brownback was re-elected.  He won by a 2.8 percent margin gaining only 33,000 more votes than Davis.

 

Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp won by 68,563 votes (68% to 33%) over his Democrat challenger Jim Sherow. Huelskamp has lied repeatedly about the Medicare provisions of the Affordable care act to scare his senior constituents.

 

He voted 42 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is a co-sponsor of a pending House bill to do it, and wants to privatize Medicare.

 

He’s closely aligned with the Health Care Leadership Council (HLC) lobby that prevented all Kansas community pharmacies from requesting the same preferred pharmacy status as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and other large box stores in order to compete on a level playing field.

 

Huelskamp received HLC’s top legislator award during 2014 for supporting their lobbying efforts, but called the award “Leadership in Healthcare Innovation” which he proudly displays on his website.  (See link below)

http://huelskamp.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/national-healthcare-leaders-honor-us-representative-tim-huelskamp-for

 

Now insurance carriers only work with a select few preferred pharmacies and are dropping many Kansas pharmacies that had preferred status in the past. As a result, many of Huelskamp’s Medicare constituents in the big first district will pay significantly higher prices for their medications during 2015.

 

But, Huelskamp was re-elected.

 

Republican Senator Pat Roberts defeated his Independent opponent Greg Orman by 91,076 votes (53% vs. 43%) using out of state hired gun campaign advisors and horrific negative campaign attacks on Orman.

 

Roberts also participated in denying the community pharmacies in Kansas from competing with the big dogs like Wal-Mart and Walgreens.

 

He along with other bi-partisan senators on the Senate Finance Committee crumbled to health industry lobby pressure during March of 2014, and forced (CMS) the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to back off of their proposal for “fair and transparent drug pricing for all pharmacies.”

 

It included a provision to give Medicare beneficiaries a “wider network and choice of pharmacies to lower their costs,” allowing the small community pharmacies to participate in the preferred provider program.

 

Roberts carried 102 of the 105 counties in Kansas, yet those Medicare members who voted for him will now pay higher prices for their prescriptions because of his support of the health industry lobby and not the small community pharmacies in Kansas.

 

But, Roberts was re-elected.

 

The Republican Insurance Commissioner candidate Ken Selzer won by 187,950 votes (62% to 38%) over his Democrat opponent Dennis Anderson. Selzer wants to privatize Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and resist helping the uninsured to obtain coverage on the Federal -Affordable Care Act- exchange.

 

Current Republican Insurance Commissioner, Sandy Praeger, who has a stellar record of protecting the insurance interests of all Kansans, supported Anderson because he rejected the privatization of Medicare, wanted to expand Medicaid, and help enroll the uninsured on the Federal exchange.

 

But, Selzer was elected.

 

Republican Kris Kobach defeated Democrat challenger Jean Schodorf by 157,819 votes (59% to 41%) to retain his office as Secretary of State.

 

Kobach has spent much of his time moonlighting on the job by helping other states write strict voter I.D. and proof of citizenship laws.

 

He attempted to influence the Kansas U.S. Senate race by requiring the Democrat to remain on the ballot to help Pat Roberts, and disenfranchised more than 22,000 Kansas voters by putting their voting status in limbo by requiring proof of citizenship when it is known that incidents of non-citizens registering to vote are extremely rare.

 

Kobach’s voter suppression in Kansas may very well have cost Democrat Paul Davis the election because in 2012 the Government Accounting Office reported 22,000 voters held in suspension translated in a 2% reduction in voter turnout.  Davis lost by 2.8%.

 

But, Kobach was re-elected by a wide margin.

 

So what are we going to do about it now that we know Kansas has a divide over politics and truth?

 

There are 1.7 million registered voters in Kansas, and about 50 percent voted in this last election.

 

I believe we must start now to build on the 390,614 Kansans who voted for Paul Davis and recruit more truth seekers who are willing to put aside their politics and join our cause to take back our state from the radical right Tea Party movement that persists within our Kansas legislature and led by a Governor who promotes his own ideology over what is best for all Kansans.

 

Here’s the set up in Kansas at this time. 

 

The Koch brothers provide big money to fund the lobbying activities of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC).   

 

ALEC, the voice of corporate special interests in State legislatures, recruits legislators, who now number more than 55 in the Kansas House and Senate led by the speaker of House Rep. Ray Merrick, and Sen. Susan Wagle, President of the Senate who are both members of the ALEC board.

 

These Kansas legislative foot soldiers bring cookie cutter identical (one size fits all states) ALEC bills back to Topeka for approval.  Fifteen ALEC bills were submitted in the Kansas legislature last year.

 

The bills are designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers’ rights, restrict voting, favor corporate interests for deregulation, privatize health care and education and gut state program budgets by eliminating income taxes.

 

ALEC and its controlling members within the Kansas legislature represent an alarming risk to the credibility of the political process in Kansas. 

 

My recommendation for starters is to work together to drain the swamp in the Kansas legislature and remove the influence of the ALEC-gators.

 

Then begin recruiting other truth seekers and ask, “Can you handle the truth” over your politics?

 

After being elected in 2010, Brownback said, “When our country seems adrift Kansas leads in an era when many believe that America has lost its way, but Kansas knows its way.”

 

Brownback’s narrow victory is a sign that his illusionary world of what is best for Kansas is starting to crumble and now Kansas is adrift in an open sea without a compass. 

 

No, Kansas does not know its way, or where we are going.

 

 

 

Former K-State Coach & Alumni Director Blasts Roberts

October 31, 2014

 

Senator Pat Roberts Video Disrespects K-Staters 

 Kansas Senator Pat Roberts released a video Thursday with an endorsement from Kansas State’s legendary football Coach Bill Snyder.

It has been learned that Coach Snyder never intended the video to be used as a campaign promotion.

University President Kirk Schulz has asked the Robert’s campaign not to use it because of existing policies that do not allow any university personnel to endorse any candidates for political office.

It is my understanding at this time, the Roberts Campaign has refused, and continues to post it on Robert’s face book.

As a former Executive Director of the Kansas State University Alumni Association, I encourage all K-Staters to contact Mr. Roberts, even if you support him, and remind him of the potential damage he is causing to our University by not complying with President Schulz’s request to stop showing the video.

By not complying with a University policy, Mr. Roberts will continue to disenfranchise Kansas State Alumni for his own personal gain which is grossly unfair to his alma mater.

 

Larry Weigel

Republicans For Kansas Values

1809 Kingwood Dr.

Manhattan, KS 66502

785-537-0366

Voter Turn-out

Voter Turn-out: Problems & Solutions

The Kansas August primary election voter turn-out was around 20%. General elections have greater turn-out, perhaps 40-50%. Local elections typically draw only 5 to 10 percent of registered voters. Regardless of the election locale, the participation rate is abysmal. Representative democracy depends on an informed citizenry exercising its franchise to select the members of legislative bodies and executive offices. Low participation rates cause the election of legislators who may or may not represent the majority. To fix this short-coming in our system of governance requires that we understand the reasons for low participation rates, and doing so, that we be guided to make changes that obtain the highest possible voter turn-out.

 

nytimesvoter_turnout_map_590.png

 

A listing of several reasons people fail to vote, even after becoming registered to vote, follows. The reasons are cited as a Problem, along with a possible Solution. Although solutions may be devised to cause a non-voter become a voter, the solution will work only if the non-voter is willing to become a voter. There is no order of prevalence in the listing of voting problems, because I have no empirical data to rank them. If you have ideas about the causes for not voting and the possible solutions to encourage voting, please comment. I have reached my limit for both.

 

1. Problem: Too busy. On election days, activities such as: work during polling hours, child and/or invalid care, unexpected or emergency travel, etc., take precedence over a trip to the polls.

Solution: Weekend voting and regular advance voting would help reduce this excuse for not voting. Signing up as an advance voter for all elections would eliminate having to select this option for each election. Keeping the polls open over a weekend would reduce voting interferences.

 

2. Problem: Don’t care. Voters feel candidates or issues are not sufficiently different to affect their lives. Thus, no compelling reason exists to warrant the effort to vote.

Solution: Require each candidate to file a statement as to their position on various issues selected by a citizen’s panel. The statements would appear on the ballot in some form, helping to differentiate between candidates.

 

3. Problem: Forgetfulness. Every day in the lives of these non-voters is pretty much the same. An election day is overlooked, because it is not significant enough to change their routine.

Solution: Frequent public service announcements (PSAs) by the media would heighten awareness that an election day is occurring.

 

4. Problem: Lack of mobility. Lacking transportation or not being ambulatory can prevent elderly, handicapped or impoverished persons from voting.

Solution: Develop a non-partisan program to give voters lacking mobility the opportunity to vote. This could include public buses, school buses, volunteers, and other transportation service providers.

 

5. Problem: Self-deprecation. A citizen may feel that his or her opinion doesn’t count as much as the opinions of others whom they view as better informed and capable of making a wiser choice.

Solution: PSAs stressing the civic duty of voting and the egalitarian aspects of a democratic electoral system may raise the self-esteem of persons, causing them to exercise their voting rights.

 

6. Problem: Rationalization. A voter may justify not voting by assuming that those who do vote are representative of all voters and the outcome will express the majority’s viewpoint.

Solution: Voters may confuse pre-election polls that use random sampling of the voting population with the actual election where the population sample is not random, but self-selected. A self-selected sample of voters only becomes representative of the population when the number of voters closely approaches or equals the number of registered voters. Educating voters of the importance of a high voter turn-out to insure that the will of the majority is expressed is necessary and should occur in school curricula.

 

7. Problem:  Apathy. For various reasons, which may include depression, ennui, fatalism, etc., the potential voter has no interest in the selection of his or her elected representative and does not vote.

Solution: Good mental health services may reduce some of the mental inertia that deters voting. Apathy is probably the most difficult non-voting problem to solve, but may be reduced by the effect of other solutions to the non-voting problem.

 

8. Problem: Intellectual Rebellion. The non-voter, dissatisfied with the political system and its results, expresses opposition by not voting, preferring to stay intellectually aloof from the fray.

Solution: Achieving a higher rate of voter turn-out would produce better results from our system of representative democracy and would lessen the prevalence of this objection to voting.

 

Maximum voter participation is the basis of a successful representative democracy. Understanding this gives one the proper framework to evaluate the damage to our democracy from the efforts of conservative extremists at voter suppression in all its forms. I firmly believe that higher voter turn-out would drive out these anti-democratic legislators and provide legislators who would use common sense to preserve our democracy.

Orman puts Kansas in Play

Fact Check - Brownback

 

Brownback.jpegpolitifact-photos-Meter_close2.jpg 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fact Check – PAC Ads for Brownback 

Ads appearing on television and Facebook to promote the re-election of Sam Brownback claim he is responsible for either “600+ new certified teachers in our classrooms” or 680 new teachers, including 281 special education teachers state-wide. I queried Kelly Arnold of the Kansas Republican Party about the ads. I was thankful for a courteous, prompt answer in which he replied, “I might not be the best source on this as the ad is from a PAC and not from the party.  I look at this as 600+ new teacher positions have been created in Kansas and classrooms would be K-12 public schools.”Therefore, without contacting the PACs, I decided to use the Kansas State Department of Education web site to fact check the claims in the ads.

Read more

Kansans are going to Save Kansas

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Kansas, and the Kansas Center for Economic Growth of Topeka, Kansas, sponsored a forum with the subject, Kansas Tax Cuts, on April 29, 2014. The forum was open to the public. The featured speaker was Michael Leachman, Ph.D., of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization and policy institute located in Washington, D.C. (For more information about the Center, visit their Web site at www.cbpp.org.) Mr. Leachman spoke about a recent research report titled, “Lessons for Other States from Kansas’ Massive Tax Cuts”, which is available athttp://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4110. This report on the forum is being made nearly two weeks later, because its a hot topic. The Brownback administration and Kansas Republican Party continue to claim beneficial results to the state’s economy as a result of the recent income tax cuts.

Mr. Leachman’s talk can be summarized by reiterating the bullet points of a fact sheet distributed at the forum titled, “5 Ways Kansas’ Tax-Cutting is Hurting the State”, which follow:

Deep income tax cuts caused large revenue losses.
The revenue losses extended and deepened the recession’s damage to schools and other state services.
The tax cuts delivered lopsided benefits to the wealthy.
Kansas tax cuts haven’t boosted its economy.
There’s little evidence to suggest that Kansas’ tax cuts will improve the economy in the future.

 

The last point counters the argument that apologists for the tax cuts make that the tax cuts simply need more time to work. The tax cuts were supposed to stimulate business activity, particularly for small businesses that were forgiven state income taxes on pass through income to the business owners and who, in turn, would boost employment. The economic data belie the intended effect.

During the panel discussion and moderated question and answer session that followed Mr.Leachman’s presentation, the possibility of a reversal of the tax cuts was mentioned saliently.As I saw it, the prevailing sense of the issue by legislators of both parties present was that, given the preponderance of extreme right-wingers in both houses, a reversal back to the historic Kansas tax policy of balanced property, sales and income taxes would be difficult. One election cycle was seen as insufficient to change course. Another “given” is that legislators will change course and reverse a previous enactment when public dissatisfaction with the policy is widely expressed and a scapegoat is available. The public’s adverse reaction to inadequate revenue for schools, borrowing from highway funds, cut-backs in essential family support services and other public needs like expansion of Medicaid is evident in the efforts of constituency groups for these areas of concern. The defeat of Governor Sam Brownback in his attempt to continue with right-wing experiments to enhance his conservative reputation will provide the identifiable scapegoat. When the next session of the Kansas Legislature rolls around, no matter who survives the electoral process, and when bills are introduced to undo the damage of an ill-advised tax policy, the chorus will be raised, “It was Brownback’s idea. We had no idea it wouldn’t work, but he made us do it.” The defeat of Sam Brownback at the polls in November is necessary to save Kansas.

Notes: The Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s Web site iswww.realprosperityks.com.

What makes a school public and why?

In Kansas, ultra-conservative legislative office-holders have introduced bills, precursors of laws, dealing adversely with many facets of public schools. These legislators are not politicians. If they were, their education bills would strengthen public schools, not weaken them. They would try to gain favor with voters, not evoke their enmity. After all, the majority of voters are parents and grandparents of the children who attend public schools. Rather than promote the common good, these legislators pursue only their special interests.

This essay discusses the characteristics of schools that are called “public” and the role of public schools in our society. Information about the various bills recently introduced affecting public schools may be found on the Web sites of Kansas education advocates

First, public schools are learning places open to everyone needing an education. No income, human development standards, creedal thresholds, citizenship status or language proficiency tests exist for public school students. However, residency and age may determine an attendance site. Access to the classroom is as much a civil right as access to a public square.

Second, public schools are established by the people they serve, acting through democratically elected governmental bodies. Public schools exist because the people believe education is an important and integral part of a workable democratic society. An educated citizenry is essential to self-government.

Third, public schools are financed by public funds which come from direct taxes on property, income, and retail sales, or indirect “tax” revenues such as casinos, lotteries and tuition fees. An axiom of our democratic government is that public funds can only be spent for a public purpose under public control and accountability. Therefore, the schools supported by public funds must be open to everyone.

Fourth, public schools are governed by persons meeting residential and other qualifications who are chosen by registered voters in general elections. Kansas school governing bodies, called boards of education, and the schools under their purview are accountable to the educational authorities as specified by the state constitution and state law.

Fifth, public schools serving a community are organized into a district comprising elementary and secondary educational levels to facilitate curriculum planning and other educational concerns. Individual districts have boundaries established according to state law. The districts within a state collectively have the same territory as the state.

Sixth, public schools are open to scrutiny by anyone who wants to know their business, including their operating policies, finances, curriculum, and teaching methods and materials. Aggregate information about a public school is open to all, except information about individual students and staff members.

Seventh, a public school’s educational curriculum, as established by the local board of education, is as broad and diverse as the needs of the public it serves. Public schools educate students for academic knowledge, employment, avocational pursuits, physical fitness, health maintenance, social interaction skills and citizenship. Public schools have also been asked to provide safety, health and sex education.

Public schools do not provide religious doctrinal training, but may teach religious history, psychology, and philosophies.

Eighth, public schools transmit the culture of a locality, region and nation through history, social studies and language texts; fine arts of music, art and drama; competitive inter-scholastic and intra-mural sports; and extracurricular activities. Informal interactions among students also contribute to their socialization as members of the community. Public schools reflect the diversity of our communities.

Finally, public schools are central to many community activities from sporting events to science fairs, providing the cloth for the tapestry of community life. As such, they are key to preserving the American way and deserve our full support.

Common sense tell us that the Kansas Legislature should pass laws to facilitate the role of public schools in society and leave the operation of school systems to the State Board of Education which is charged with this responsibility by the State Constitution and to the locally elected school boards. State legislators should provide adequate and equitable funding as directed by the State Constitution.

Open Letter to Huelskamp

I am an unfortunate constituent of possibly the most ill-informed and idiotic of Congresspeople: the wingnut Tim Huelskamp of Kansas' 1st district.  At a meeting in our town last year, someone asked him his thoughts on gun control and his response was, "We don't have a gun problem."  Subsequently I wrote to him about his position, and much later I got an email from him that is replicated below.  Since replies to his email are not delivered, I choose to write this as an open letter.  The first piece is his email, the second is my reply.

 

Huelskamp's Letter:

From: Congressman Tim Huelskamp [mailto:th@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2014 4:01 PM
To: dbmcgaw@sbcglobal.net
Subject: Email from Congressman Tim Huelskamp

February 12, 2014

Dear Dr. McGaw,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your  concerns regarding Second Amendment legislation. I appreciate hearing your concerns.

I am saddened to hear that whenever any individual is hurt or killed by the improper use of a firearm; however, ultimately the blame lies solely with the criminal. The solution is not to infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, but instead to hold criminals accountable for their actions, particularly repeat offenders who commit the most violent crimes. Furthermore, like you, I believe Washington and all of America must have a serious debate and honest discussion about what fuels a very small segment of the population to inflict harm and instill fear. This means holding Hollywood accountable for its culture of violence and death. We should talk openly about mental health issues. And also we must stress the responsibilities of families, communi! ties, and the churches to deal with this violence.

I disagree with many members of Congress who believe additional gun control legislation is a means of reducing crime.  It is ironic considering many of these same individuals consistently oppose getting tough on crime and punishing perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.  Additionally, during the tenure of the Obama Administration, enforcement of current gun laws has declined substantially — and that is wrong.  While there is little evidence to lead me to believe another gun law in Washington would actually prevent criminals from engaging in illegal activity — the evidence is undeniable that tougher enforcement and prosecution would make a huge difference.

As a responsible and law-abiding gun owner, I am committed to standing behind the principles set forth by the Founding Fathers guaranteeing the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. I oppose efforts by the Obama Administration to prescribe unnecessary, unproven, and unconstitutional gun control mandates on upstanding, law-abiding citizens. Rest assured, should any legislation relating to the Second Amendment come to the floor for a vote, I will keep your thoughts in mind.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your thoughts. If you haven't already, I encourage you to take a moment to find me on Facebook, follow my personal updates on Twitter and check out my latest speeches and media appearances on YouTube.

                                   Sincerely,

                                   Tim Huelskamp
                                   Member of Congress

====

My letter to him in reply:

Mr. Huelskamp:  Your correspondence is presumably in response to correspondence I had with you sometime last year, so is not very timely.  Nevertheless, I cannot let slide the disingenuousness of your arguments, realizing of course that you will discount or ignore anything I say that may be counter to your preconceived opinions.  You are not one to listen to reason or your constituents; only to your prejudices and the Koch brothers.

1.     Putting the blame on Hollywood for most of the violence is simply idiotic.  While an argument can be made that violence in movies does not help things, we have had a culture of violence throughout our history, well before movies were invented.  Witness the Civil War, the campaigns against native Americans, the assassination of Lincoln, the trumped-up war against Spain in 1898, the Homestead riots, and so many other examples.  No, Hollywood is a reflection of our society, not a cause of it.
2.     On mental health issues, I would agree with you that we need more attention and treatment here, but then you turn around and cut funds that could be used for that purpose.  You cannot have it both ways; either fund mental health activities or stop your lip-service to them.  As it is, you are a classic hypocrite.
3.    You say that families, communities and churches should deal with this violence.  Where does government come in?  Without government and its laws, these other segments of society have little chance to turn things around.
4.    You say that additional gun control legislation won’t reduce crime, this despite the unassailable record of crime reductions when and where gun registration is effectively enforced.  Your position is simply and flat-out wrong on the facts.
5.    I agree with your statement that tougher enforcement of existing laws would help, but whenever Congress or the courts try to do this, it seems that you and those who agree with you scream bloody murder about abrogation of citizens’ Second Amendment rights.  Therefore, I have to assume you don’t really mean what you say.  Again, stop the hypocrisy.  If you want everyone to carry weapons everywhere, at least have the honesty to stop hiding behind the seemingly moderate view of enforcing existing laws.
6.    You accuse the Obama administration of prescribing “unnecessary, unproven, and unconstitutional gun control mandates on upstanding, law-abiding citizens.”  First, Obama is nothing if not moderate, and what he is attempting is simply better control and registration, much like that we use for motor vehicles.  Second, Obama’s proposals differ very little – if at all – from those proposed by your hero Ronald Reagan.  Just as there is nothing unconstitutional in requiring tests and licenses to drive vehicles, there is also nothing unconstitutional in doing the same for weapons which are far more dangerous.  In neither case is the government taking away your right to own and operate the item in question, just so long as you do it legally.  It is the non-upstanding, non-law-abiding persons that need to be restricted, and this can only be accomplished with good registration and licensing.
7.     Registering and licensing does not “take away our Second Amendment rights” but rather they enhance those rights by helping to restrict ownership to those with a good record.  Your apocalyptic statements to the contrary serve only to whip up a frenzy with the wingnuts (like yourself) and to stifle any reasonable solution to the problem.

You apparently have taken no lessons to heart from the shootings at Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, and so many other places.  You have paid little or no attention to the ongoing holocaust in some of our cities where easy access to weapons results in so many thousands of unnecessary deaths, especially of young people.  The yearly toll from gun deaths is far greater than that from Vietnam at its height.  Evidently, a distorted view of the Second Amendment is – for you – the only one with value.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes in a distant second in priority, if at all.

You, Mr. Huelskamp, are a blot on the reputation of our state.  Your extremism and lack of reasonable moderation make you unfit for your position.

Douglas B. McGaw
dbmcgaw@sbcglobal.net

Brownback Extremely Unpopular

An Important Stand

ARE YOU GOING TO PUT UP WITH THIS?

Recently on social media, a conservative political consultant advised clients that, unless an issue could be explained with a crayon, it was too complicated for the voter. Well, I’m getting out my large Turquoise Blue Crayola crayon to explain issues that are tearing apart the political, social, and economic fabric of the State of Kansas.

Think about the community where you live. Would you put up with a local governing body that:

  • Politicized enforcement of local laws by establishing an elected justice of the peace to hear cases instead of a judge appointed based on his or her legal qualifications? In 2013, the Kansas Legislature ended merit selection of Court of Appeals judges. Are you going to put up with politicizing our higher courts?

  • Repealed anti-discrimination local laws to permit religious beliefs to determine who could receive publicly available services? The Kansas House of Representatives passed a law to deny same-sex couples services depending on whether the server’s religious belief condoned the couple’s marital status. Are you going to put up with State Representatives who enact blatantly discriminatory laws?

  • Prohibited residents from having test-tube babies? A Kansas Senate committee considered a law to make a surrogate birth mother a criminal and the contract that paid her for her services illegal. Are you going to put up with State senators who would deny a biological off-spring to a woman who could not otherwise give birth to a child?

  • Issued an exclusive franchise to a cable TV company to give them monopolistic rights to provide telecommunication services? A bill to prohibit competitive cable TV services in communities was introduced by a Kansas legislator at the request of cable TV companies. Are you going to put up with legislators who put business profits ahead of the public’s interest in free markets?

  • Passed a local law prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from enforcing state laws within your community? In 2013, the Legislature passed and the Governor approved a law which prohibits federal agents from enforcing certain federal gun laws in Kansas. In 2014, the same officials are attempting to prevent enforcement of the federal Endangered Species Act. Are you going to put up with elected officials who enact unconstitutional laws to nullify federal laws and that will waste your tax dollars to defend a lost cause in court?

  • Established requirements beyond the state law that would increase the cost and time required for a driver’s license? An Olathe legislator, Keith Esau, has introduced a bill to add extra steps to void a state-issued marriage license. The bill would require a spouse to prove fault on behalf of the other spouse to get a divorce. Incompatibility would no longer be grounds for divorce. Are you going to put up with legislators who want to impose their religious beliefs about divorce on others?

Numerous other proposed laws equally repugnant to our governmental traditions are being considered by the legislature. One would usurp the State Board of Education’s power to set educational standards. Another would restrict the speech of local government employees who wish to comment on proposed legislation. Who knows what other equally poor public policies are being plotted by legislators intent on pursuing  a misguided concept of state government not shared by the vast majority of Kansans.

I have almost worn out my crayon explaining that there is no reason you should accept behavior by state legislators that you would not tolerate by elected local officials. This isn’t complicated. You can do something about this sorry, embarrassing state of affairs in the capitol building. Contact your legislator about your dissatisfaction, even if she or he is an instigator of bad laws. Register to vote and , above all, vote. Support candidates who will use common sense when legislating by money donations and word of mouth. Let’s not put up with bad behavior by zealots who pursue their own agenda and ignore the common good.



Reroute the Roadmap

 

 

 

We’re six women, 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats standing together to fight extremism.

We want to put an end to Governor Brownback's failed Roadmap.

We want to protect our children, rural communities, and financial futures.

We want to bring sanity back to Topeka.

Take Action - Put Cameras in the Legislature!

Want a bill you can support in the Kansas Legislature?

There is a bill that would require web-based video simulcasting of KS Legislative committee sessions. This way you could not only see what your legislator is doing but you can watch and replay such classic lines as "If I were a woman over 50, I wouldn't need gynecological services" Rep Rothlisberg (R-Junction City) this year in committee.

But guess what: The committee Chair (Rep. Marc Rhoades) wont even let the bill get a hearing.

A little sunlight is a great disinfectant and Topeka is getting pretty moldy.

Let the committee chair know that you’d like HB 2438 to be heard.

Don't take Democracy for granted! Be tactful and email the man that is stopping this bill from being heard: 

Email Rep. Rhoades (R-Newton)

Marc.Rhoades@house.ks.gov

or call

785-296-7682

 

 

Declaration of Intentions

 

Declaration of Intentions

The state of affairs which surrounds us demands cooperation and compromise; we unite in the heart of the nation to bring balance, reason, and pragmatism to Kansas. The unabashed hubris of elected extremists has left Kansans disenfranchised and demoralized. In response, the establishment of the Moderate Party is not only desired but necessary to restore the democratic values of our state’s republican form of government. A new coalition is required in order to effectively maintain a multi-party system rather than regressing into one-party totalitarianism. By openly rejecting prior political labels and resolving to embrace the vast majority of Kansans, we seek camaraderie in cause and action.

Therefore, the Moderate Party of Kansas declares its intent to:

 

  • Hold voter registration events and encourage Kansans to vote.
  • Bring awareness to the negative effects of the policies advocated by extremists.
  • Change the political climate in Kansas from divisiveness to inclusion.
  • Collaborate with Kansas groups that support moderate candidates and legislation.
  • Promote dialogues between diverse interest groups to achieve unity of purpose for the best interest of Kansas and the common good of its citizens.
  • Put forward common sense solutions that seek to promote pragmatic governance.

 

 Aaron Estabrook - Founder   Nick Hoehisel -  Founder   Dave Warren -  Founder    

Tom Ridge's Remarks @ Log Cabin Spirit of Lincoln Event

 

THE HONORABLE TOM RIDGE LOG CABIN SPIRIT OF LINCOLN EVENT OCTOBER 23, 2103 / WASHINGTON, DC

Thank you, Gregory

Other acknowledgments: The Log Cabin Republicans The Liberty Forum Board of Directors The many elected officials and GOP dignitaries here tonight who joined me in co-signing the amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8. (Recognize Ken Mehlman although he will not be in attendance.)
I’m pleased to join you today and to be among those who supported the Amicus brief in the case of Perry v. Brown (Hollingsworth).

You should know that some eighteen years ago marriage equality was not a concept I supported when I became governor.

But over the years, I became better informed, more aware, and more understanding.

Not everyone I called a friend was straight, but it made no difference. They were my friends nonetheless. Friends without the same rights to marry as I had.

My support of marriage equality wasn’t a decision made at one point in time. There was no epiphany; it evolved.

It simply came to make sense – that all of us are equal in the eyes of the God we worship and the same should be true of the government to which we “render unto Caesar.”

The same is true for my various positions on any number of issues – abortion, immigration, school choice, fiscal policy, foreign policy.

The seasoning of time and experience either have changed those views…or made them more firmly entrenched.

I’ve run for elected office eight times; so I’m accustomed to having my views challenged – occasionally by my own party and more often by the Democratic Party. For me, the discussion of issues started at the kitchen table.

You see, my mom was a Republican. Dad was a Democrat.

My dad was so much a Democrat that he once changed his party registration so he could vote for his son in the GOP primary – and then at the first opportunity, he changed it right back. I said, “Dad, stay awhile!”

You can imagine our dinner conversations. But we were always respectful of each other’s beliefs. One of the valuable lessons was that neither party enjoyed the wisdom of Solomon nor had all the answers of an oracle.

The Republican Party is another family to me – one in which some of my views differ with certain groups within our party.

Unfortunately, the tone and tenor toward me and others with my same point of view isn’t always so respectful. And that troubles me, particularly because I never required 100% congruency with my views as a condition of support for Republican colleagues.

So I thought I’d talk to you today about my thoughts on that – about my perspectives of the Republican Party of the 21st Century – a nonjudgmental conservative party – a winning party - and what that means.

I predict that some of my observations about a victorious nonjudgmental party will be provocative, perhaps controversial. Frankly, that is why I am grateful you have provided me this opportunity to make them. They really ought not to be controversial at all. Sadly, that’s how far it seems the party has strayed.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’m not sure if I have any – but since when has that stopped anyone in Washington from making a speech!

I’ll start here…

Two Republican presidents changed my life in a very personal and meaningful way. One called on me to serve my country in Vietnam. The other asked me to serve my country after the attacks of 9/11.

Neither president asked me my position on social issues.

In both instances, the message was simply: “Your country needs you – please serve.” I was privileged to serve in Congress under yet another Republican President, Ronald Reagan He once observed:

“The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

See, he was respectful. He was civil. He was positive. He challenged, he didn’t condemn.

He knew he needed a few of his “liberal friends” to win elections. Frankly, I think we have some within the party that prefer to wage battles, but not win wars.

He not only rallied conservatives in the GOP – he made appeals to the center, conservative Democrats and independents.

It was the strategy and vision of the “big tent.” He was inclusive, nonjudgmental, practical and conservative!

Today, that “big tent” is morphing into a “lean to.”

Instead of working to attract independents and working-class Democrats, a hard-core and shrinking base often alienates the very voters it needs to win elections.

In recent years – Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander, Orin Hatch, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham – among others – were castigated by devout hardliners for not being conservative enough. Not conservative enough?

Reagan would I dare say be considered too moderate for our party today. He wasn’t an in your face ideologue. He was practical, nonjudgmental and conservative. Reagan had been a Democrat; had been divorced; had been an actor; and had run one of the most liberal unions in the country – the Screen Actor’s Guild. I don’t think he could have been our nominee in 2012.

And don’t even get me started about Abraham Lincoln’s chances.

Last year, then Senator Olympia Snowe resigned with a letter lamenting – quote – “an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies in campaigns and governing institutions.”

She’s right – about the U.S. Senate – and about the GOP.

For those who don’t toe a strict party line – or have an unbending ideological line – or who dare to work with Democrats to get anything done – they’re neither conservative enough, nor Republican enough for some within our midst.

For many observers, the GOP has become intolerant, judgmental and self-righteous – perhaps worthy of attitudes of the Pilgrims in 1620, but hardly attractive qualities for a political party nearly 400 years later.
Sadly, there is very little room or respect for differences of opinion on social issues.

Remember when the Democratic Party wanted to deny my predecessor, Governor Bob Casey a chance to speak at the 1992 convention, because he was pro-life?

Some within the Democratic Party were seeking to widen its base – demonstrate a willingness to accept and respect a different opinion.

Republicans immediately condemned his exclusion. But haven’t we done the same thing within our own party?

Our own narrow thinking on social issues is one of the principal reasons we have lost the last two national elections.
We will always be the prolife party! Yet as some of my prolife women friends have observed, that’s their choice.

You know, the President, in the implementation of ObamaCare, (and I agree with the majority of Americans. It is a flawed law worthy of repeal) is blatantly infringing on the religious liberties of Catholic and other religious health care facilities. You know I am pro-choice, but in mandating that these institutions perform abortions or provide other services contrary to its values, the government is forcing its views on the practices of these religious institutions. It is a scary, slippery slope.

But I say, if we are to combat this real attack on American liberties, we cannot be the party that simply seeks to replace Democrat tyranny to impose forms of it to our liking.

If our expectation is the respect of our individual rights, we must respect the rights of others to live and let live.

If we want a government that acknowledges our God-given right to freely choose how we live—in regard o marriage and others issues – we must demand a government that respects the rights of others to choose and follow their conscience just the same.

And if the Republican Party does not champion free will and free thoughts as a component of freedom writ large, we will not only find the Republican Party permanently divided, but the country itself.

Many Americans are outraged by the moralistic attacks on the gay and lesbian community from some within our party. Perhaps they should be more concerned about their own relationship with God. As both Saint Matthew and Saint Luke taught us, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It is an important enough lesson to be mentioned multiple times.

The blanket condemnation of illegal immigrants and the failure to find a way to at least legitimize their status (not citizenship) of those who have been law abiding since their arrival is wrong and a grave political mistake.

And yes, there is another group of Americans to whom the GOP appears insensitive and uncaring. Last fall thirty-plus Republican senators walked by one of our great contemporary political leaders, Bob Dole, to vote against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It would have no effect on U.S. Law. But instead, those Senators – wanting to look big in front of the hardcore “don’t like the UN crowd” –made their country look small – themselves look small minded – and once again, made their party look exclusionary.

Let’s face it, who’s left to offend – perhaps just white males – and we are beginning to lose support with that group as well.

This lack of civility and statesmanship has consequences that extend beyond lost elections. We risk losing a generation of public servants. Allegheny College, one of the nation’s great liberal arts schools, has done extensive polling on the subject. They found that young Americans are turning away from careers in elected office. That troubles me greatly. It should trouble all of us.

And if you supplement our offensive and exclusionary view on social issues with the debacle of the past few weeks, we should be concerned about our brand, our message and our future. The majority of Americans don’t like Obama Care, but they like the flawed and failed tactics to default even less.

In order to govern, we must win national elections. To do so the narcissists and ideologues within our party need to understand that Americans are, more conservative than liberal, but are more practical than ideological and more tolerant and open minded than judgmental. They are also looking for real not rhetorical solutions.

They are not attracted to a party that imposes an even more severe litmus tests on its own members, projects an unacceptable rigidity and self-righteousness on social issues, and spends more time and energy objecting to bad law rather than proposing alternatives.

So before we worry about 2016 and potential messengers, shouldn’t we be focused on our message. First, wouldn’t it be better for us if we realized that notwithstanding differences on social issues, we are on the same side, that there is far, far more that unites than divides.

Wouldn’t it be better if we understood that unity doesn’t mean or require UNANIMITY? That disagreement does not mean disloyalty. And compromise doesn’t mean capitulation.

We do not have to agree on every agenda item, every policy or every talking point to be a good Republican.

We do not have to agree on all things to uphold and promote the important things. The kind of things with which we do agree, such as:

A Republican party joined in the cause of a strong defense to sustain our belief that the U.S. is the best suited of all countries to provide global leadership in the 21st century.

Such as individualized empowerment and accountability.

Such as an economy driven by innovation and entrepreneurship and less encumbered with non- productive taxes and regulations.

Such as common ground and compromise are as critical today in advancing our national interest as it was when our founders drafted the most significant political compromises of self-government known to mankind – the Constitution of the United States.

Let me be clear: I don’t think the Republican Party is going by the wayside.

Oh, how some in the media and our Democratic friends would like that.

Daily it seems, they rub their hands with delight at that prospect and cheerfully fan the flames of dissent.

So if we’re looking for a group to offend – let it be the DNC and their friends in the media.

Let it be the people who want us to continue to lose elections.

I am an optimist by nature and so I have every confidence that we will succeed as a party. For we know that good politics – a civil, respectful dissent and a constructive debate of ideas – can advance our party, not diminish it. It always has.

Abraham Lincoln once said – “Revolutions do not go backwards.”

As for the revolution that has long been the Republican Party, it has always moved forward – and I believe it will gain strength and succeed –as long as the next generation of leaders accepts the responsibility to promote an constructive, conservative, nonjudgmental agenda.

Just as we stared with a puzzled look at our parents or grandparents, who seemed stuck in neutral – when it came to civil rights in the 1960s – the younger generations are looking at us with the same quizzical expressions.

•63% of millennials hope to achieve full marriage equality. The times they are changing.

They’ve grown up with friends who are gay or lesbian; they’ve seen America go through two wars and they’ve watched the country’s economy plunge. They are impatient to say “move over and let us show you how it’s done.”

That is often the way of change.

As a young politician, Teddy Roosevelt saw a weariness with voters at the turn of the 19th century – they were tired of politics of the extreme.

So he crafted himself as a bipartisan candidate – willing to get things done. That infuriated Democrats and establishment Republicans.

Leave it to a guy with the initials “TR” to get people’s feathers ruffled!

But he won. And it led to a Progressive Bipartisan era.

The country swung back eventually – political swings of polarization versus conciliation are constant.

But I’d like to see our years of polarization end.

The work of our party is the work of all members of the GOP.

If we are to win, we will win because we worked together – and won together – and will lead together.
Right now, we seem more focused on the messenger – rather than the message. But if we look back at the icons of the Republican Party, each one had a vision.

Lincoln – emancipation.

Teddy Roosevelt – an environment and economy preserved for future generations.

Reagan – cut taxes, tear down that wall.

What will be our message of the 2016 election?

Will we have a positive message next year for the midterms?

And will that message appeal to a broad array of voters? Or will it be a message that seeks to prey on our differences and fears, rather than our shared goals?

Those are the questions that require our full attention.

Social issues are important. But frankly, whether we consider someone Republican enough or conservative enough on social issues – whether your hat is red, purple or blue – is not a message to bring to the electorate.

The voter appeal of Reagan’s big tent was that, maybe just maybe, inside that tent politics might not take precedence over the business of governing. Of getting things done.

That appeal swept him into office – and kept him there – because he had a vision – and while he was as deft a politician as we’ve ever had – he was a leader first, a likable man second, a politician third, and a polarizing figure last.

He was the pro-life president who didn’t run on the issue.

He had a mid-Westerner’s understanding of the American, and didn’t run against those seeking a better life in this blessed land.

He ran on the vision of a shining city on a hill.

He tapped into the country’s hunger for better days – and for most people – that was a strong economy and a secure country.

It was quite simple, really.

Reagan knew, as Teddy Roosevelt knew, as Lincoln knew – that beyond politics, a party must be about purpose.

What is our purpose, the Republican Party of today?

Are we a fractured party of purists and ideologues – or are we going to become a united party of ideas?

Do we want to lose on divisiveness or win on good leadership?

If we want to win, then we need a bigger tent. And we need to fill it. We need to fill it, just as we have filled this room. With people of good will, of understanding, and of a desire to see each other succeed, not see how many we can help fail.

If we want to win, we need to be a party worthy of the 21st century. A nonjudgmental party where all who support us are welcome. A party where diversity of view, race, ethnicity, gender and religion are relished and promoted and nourished.

If we want to win, we need to remember that we are the Party of Lincoln – Lincoln, who believed in the principle of thoughtful, respectful debate, but also believe in the dignity and hopes of every person.

I don’t know about you – but I want to win.

I want my party to have the best chance of success every time a voter walks into a voting booth.

I want my country to have the best chance of success – always but most especially when a Republican is in the White House.
I don’t want to cede power to another party – or for that matter, to another part of the world.

None of us do. So we have our work cut out for us.

So to all the members of my party I say - let us work together in a civil and respectful way, with passion and conviction.

Let’s go forward with a mission and message for the next election.

And let’s find our way back as a party of ideas – a party of inclusion.

There’s room enough for everyone.

Thank you.

Three Views of Taxation

“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., American Jurist

“Of all debts, men are least willing to pay the taxes. What a satire this is on government! Everywhere they think they get their money’s worth, except for these.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” Attributed to Jean Baptiste Colbert, Finance minister to Louis XIV, France

The above quotations aptly summarize three major aspects of taxation: its benefits, its negatives and its fairness. The first quote affirms that there are benefits from taxation, in spite of the negatives. Well-maintained, modern public infrastructure is essential for economic productivity, as is quality, affordable public education. Responsive emergency medical services, disease control research, prescription drug regulation and agricultural product quality inspections are important health related services largely supported by taxes. The foundation of our society, the rule of law, is protected by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the judicial system, all supported by taxes.

The second quote affirms a nearly universal disdain for taxes. Some maintain that the best interest of Americans is minimal government and low taxes. Minimal government is presumably the amount necessary to secure only those services necessary to maintain our civilized society and nothing more. Thus, a low tax rate is presumably one that supports only minimal government. Yet, given the faults of government – inefficiency, waste and abuse without exception (although there are exceptions), even the lowest possible rate of taxation is considered too high by a few. Taxes are also galling due to the potential use of force for their collection. Taxes are an enigma. We don’t want to pay for government, but we know that government, like taxes, is a necessary evil.

The third quote affirms the importance of tax policy. Probably no feature of public finance has drawn greater interest from economists. Tax policy also produces quips about the best tax being one paid by the other guy. Thus, the rhyme, “Don’t tax me and don’t tax thee. Tax the fellow behind the tree.” Tax policy is formulated by a debate to reconcile the disdain for and the need for taxes.

In Kansas, tax policy historically has been a three-legged stool relying on property, retail sales and personal income. For years, these three primary sources provided stability to Kansas governmental finance, kept rates on any source lower and lessened inter-state competition vis-à-vis the rates for these sources. Reference: Kansas Politics and Government, Flentje, H. Edward and Aistrup,Joseph A., University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln,2010, P. 172

The recent Kansas tax policy change to reduce and eventually eliminate personal income taxes and exempt so-called “pass through” income from taxation altogether has stirred a debate over the once settled issue of three major sources. A tax policy issue has risen over the fairness of wage earners paying income taxes while others earning "pass through" income don’t pay and no end date is set for the income tax. The non-taxpayers are called job creators who will use funds from exempted taxes for business expansion. Income taxpayers are not called supporters of Kansas government (surely an oversight) and contributors to the Kansas economy as buyers of consumer goods (surely another oversight). Thus, the fairness of the new tax scheme is an issue for wage earners and retirees who cannot create “pass through” income, but continue to pay for government services and facilities. The Kansas tax policy goals of balance, diversification and fairness seem to have been cast aside in favor of “the fellow behind the tree” paying the taxes.

(This entry was authored by Dave Warren. Dave is a retired Kansan and co-founder of the Moderate Party of Kansas Movement)

 

 

Read more

Dwight D. Eisenhower

“People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into the gray areas. Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters. ” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Kansas Secretary of State Race

Brownback's Favoritism: The Inequality of Kansas Tax Structure

Equal Taxation

Kansas has relied historically on three tax sources to support Kansas government: property, retail sales and personal income. In pre-Great Recession 2008, the three sources made up 87.1 percent of total state and local taxes with property taxes at 33.6%, income taxes at 27.9% and sales taxes at 25.6%. The balance of revenue (12.9%) came from motor fuel, vehicle registration, unemployment insurance, insurance premiums, mineral severance taxes and miscellaneous other taxes. (See footnote) For years, Kansas tax policy sought balance and diversification among the three primary sources. The policy has worked to provide stability to Kansas governmental finance, to keep rates on any source lower and lessen competition from adjoining states vis-à-vis the rates for these sources.

The recent state tax policy change to eliminate personal income taxes eventually has stirred a debate over a once settled issue. Without the income tax and unobtainable, massive reductions in state and local budgets, property and sales taxes are certain to increase, a prospect that raises the issue of the regressive character of the two sources. The fairness of increasing property and sales taxes is eclipsed by the lack of fairness of exempting so-called “pass through” income from taxation altogether. The question about tax policy has become not one of how regressive is a tax, but how unequal is an income tax when some pay and some don’t. The non-taxpayers are touted as job creators who need the exempted taxes to fund business expansion. The heavier share of the total tax burden being shifted to wage-earners is never mentioned as a vital support for the Kansas economy even though that’s exactly what has happened. Equal taxation has become a deciding issue for wage and salary earners and others such as retirees who are all a strong segment of the Kansas economy.

An examination of property and sales taxes reveals that both sources are paid more equally by all income and wealth levels of society than they are necessarily regressive. Property taxes are ad valorem taxes, that is, they are based on the value of the property as determined by a professional appraisal system. Kansas has made the appraisal process as uniform as possible with an investment in technology, systems and training. If performed properly, which the state has gone to great lengths to ensure, appraisals represent the relative value of property throughout the state. Sales taxes are also based on value as determined by the retail market wherever located within the state and everyone pays the same state tax rate. The relative equality of property and sales taxes does not lessen the regressive nature of these taxes as a percent of household income, however it does establish their fairness as a source of taxes.

Wealthy, high-income persons are apt to reside in the more up-scale, high-value property. Poor, low-income persons conversely tend to live in sub-standard, low-cost property. Between the two extremes, the value of a property is usually commensurate with the income of the occupant. Thus, the amount of property tax paid, whether directly or indirectly through rent to a landlord who pays the tax directly, is equalized proportionally according to property value. The items purchased by people tend to reflect their ability to pay. Wealthy persons tend to purchase costly, luxury goods. Low-income persons typically purchase lower cost, standard goods. Thus, the amount of sales tax paid is equalized proportionally according to income. Although exact equality is not achieved in both instances, the result is more or less equality of taxation.

A condition of equality is obviously not the case with the income tax when some pay and some do not pay. Regardless of the asserted economic benefits of exempting “job creators”, who are under no requirement to produce jobs to receive the exemption and who continue to receive the same state and local government services and facilities as do taxpayers, the tax favoritism policy is manifestly unfair and discriminatory. Equal taxation is all fair-minded people desire, not the unproven economic development schemes offered by Governor Brownback. Kansans expect everyone to pay their equal share of the taxes necessary to pay for state and local government services and facilities.

Footnote: Flentje, H. Edward and Aistrup, Joseph A., Kansas Politics and Government, The Clash of Political Cultures, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 2010, Page 171.

Brownback Tax Experiment: Shot of Valium (not adrenaline)

This week Gov. Brownback’s “experiment” with Kansas tax structure has been noticed by our northern and eastern neighbors of Nebraska and Missouri. They are looking with interest and curiosity not because it has been successful but they are sounding the alarm and using us as a case study of what NOT to do when it comes to cutting income tax.

Below is a summary of what Paul Hammel (World-Herald bureau in Omaha Nebraska), Amy Blouin (Executive Director of the Missouri Budget Project), and Annie McKay (Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth) have been saying in their reports to media.

Since the tax cuts became law one year ago:

- Kansas has cut investment in education reducing state aid to public schools by more than $300 per student.

- Kansas Public colleges and universities have had to increase tuition, 3x the rate of inflation.

- Kansas has cut Funding to the state’s transportation network and the safety of Kansas communities

- Concerned about the state’s ability to pay out existing bonds due to the tax cut, Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating. As a result, Kansans will pay more for basic government functions.

- Missouri has added jobs at a faster rate than Kansas. And although many companies have reorganized in order to take advantage of tax loopholes, Kansas has seen little increase in net businesses

- Kansas has had to increase local property taxes in order to avoid eliminating vital services

- The scheduled cut toward the temporary Sales Tax was thwarted in an attempt to plug a $700 million hole in the budget

- Kansas rebate program for sales taxes paid on food was almost forsaken but survived with some changes

- A state tax deduction for mortgage interest was cut in half, intensifying the pain when coupled with the necessity for property tax increases

- Kansas has $365 million less revenue this year as compared to last

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/missouri-shouldn-t-follow-kansas-down-the-road-of-decline/article_d3e9e11f-2131-5836-8bfb-fd452b503539.html

http://www.omaha.com/article/20130804/NEWS/130809598/1685

 

Is the Moderate Coalition Finished?

 

From The Docking Blog August 13, 2013

For the most part we have used this blog as a way to explore public policy. Today, however, I want to look at a political point, and address a question I have been asked many times over the past couple of years: is the moderate coalition, which governed the state of Kansas effectively for many years, finished as a political force?

The answer to the question is no.

For years in the legislature there was an informal coalition between moderate Republicans and Democrats, particularly in the state Senate. This group worked productively with Governors Sebelius and Parkinson, voting for policies such as the temporary sales tax increase to fund government services during the Great Recession, and blocking many of the radical conservative policies that we’ve seen enacted over the past couple of years.

And on the statewide electoral level, often Republicans would nominate a radical conservative in their primary, and Moderate Republicans and Democrats would band together to elect a moderate Democrat in November. It didn’t always work, as the example of former Attorney General Phill Kline shows, but then again, he was defeated for reelection.

The last two election cycles have called this coalition into question. In the legislature, the Republican Party purged its moderates in the Senate, leading to a radical conservative takeover and the flood of truly terrible legislation we’ve seen over the past year. On the electoral level, we have Kris Kobach, as blindly devoted to his own ideology as Phill Kline ever was, while dedicated and competent public servants like Dennis McKinney are relegated to the sidelines.

So the question arises: has Kansas permanently changed?

There has been only one other time in the 30 years that I’ve been following Kansas politics that were similar to the 2010 and 2012 cycles in terms of Democratic bloodletting, and that was in 1994 and 1996. There is an important similarity between these two sets of cycles: the first mid-term and reelection campaign of a Democratic president who was unpopular in Kansas. I probably don’t have to tell you that 1994/6 – as bad as it was – was not the end of Democratic governance in Kansas, and I don’t believe 2010/12 will be the end of the Moderate Republican/Democratic coalition either.

The difference now (aside from the influence of massive infusions of private money into the electoral system, which is a topic for another day) is that Moderate Republicans realize that, right now, their home is not in the Republican party as it is currently constituted and run. Although they were not able to make their presence felt in Republican primaries last year, there are still a significant number – in the tens of thousands – of Moderate Republicans who are as horrified as any Democrat by the irresponsible policy-making and autocratic governing style of the governor and his legislative allies.

I am completely confident that these responsible Republican leaders will work cooperatively with Democrats across the state in 2014, both to take the governor’s mansion and to reestablish a governing majority for the Moderate Coalition in the State House of Representatives.

(Jill Docking has worked in the financial services industry since 1988 and is a long-time resident of Wichita. She has been active in politics and policy for many years, including running for Senate in 1996 and supporting many moderate candidates of both parties.)

To read more from The Docking Blog visit www.dockingblog.com 

Concealed Carry and Public Buildings

‘Concealed Carry’ and Public Buildings

 

By Dave Warren

The Kansas Legislature in 2013 permitted a person with a‘concealed carry’ permit to take their gun into some public buildings. The ‘concealed carry’ law originally permitted building occupants to post signs indicating that guns were not allowed on their premises. Concealed carry permit holders apparently felt that banning their weapons was an affront to their good character and intentions, because the gun lobby pressed the legislature to eliminate the signage restriction. In doing so, the Legislature gave local governments time to put security measures in place to make public buildings secure or allow concealed weapons inside. Included in the delay were schools, institutions of higher education, and government-owned health care facilities (except mental health). The time delay for compliance was probably given in recognition of the expense of complying with no state financial assistance.

Admittedly, a building entrance door sign banning guns offers no assurance of safety from a gun attack. Security measures likewise offer no assurance of safety from a gun attack by a concealed carry permit holder, unless the weapon is held. The type of security measures effective to ban weapons from a public building would be metal detectors, x-rays, and body frisks monitored or performed by a paid employee or employees. The expense is essentially the same as needed for an airport boarding area. Small jurisdictions generally will be unable to afford security measures and will be coerced into accepting concealed weapons inside their offices and meeting rooms. Larger jurisdictions will be more likely to afford security, but to finance it will have to either forgo another need or raise taxes. Those jurisdictions in the middle will face costs disproportionate to the benefit. They will probably opt to permit concealed weapons rather than incur the expense.

The alternatives to permit conceal carry or provide security measures are not the only ones. A jurisdiction could simply deny building access to everyone except employees. Business of citizens could be transacted in a lobby area with a bullet-proof, pass-through window like those found in all-night gas stations and with closed circuit television and computer equipment. Public meetings would be attended with remote viewing. Besides initial costs, an on-going financial burden would be avoided. Personal contact between citizens and government employees who serve them would be sacrificed. This arrangement may be the unintended consequence of the Legislature and Governor Brownback cow-towing to the gun lobby, rather than serving the Common Good.

Gun attacks in public buildings are not fantasies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 14, 2010) reports that between 1997-2010, workplace homicides totaled 8,666 of which 6,850 were shootings, many of which occurred in buildings. The number of shooting homicides involving local government, mostly law enforcement, was 355. Although few homicides involved service employees or elected officials, there have been recent incidents in Saylorsburg, PA; Kirkwood, MO; and Wilmington, DE where deaths occurred.

The potential exists when the government closest to the people enforces laws that persons, who may have a mental illness, will manifest their opposition to enforcement through gun violence. Truth is, this is not a “concealed carry” issue. It’s a mental health and gun control issue. State institutions and local governments should not be forced to either accept concealed weapons or spend outrageous sums to insure safety. The Common Good to be achieved is the protection of citizens from becoming victims of gun violence. Holders of concealed carry permits would better serve their communities by simply leaving their weapons at home or in their car when visiting public buildings or institutions.

-Dave Warren is a Co-Founder of Moderate Party of Kansas

Healthcare

Healthcare

By Dave Warren

(The format of this post is to present, in italics, a section or excerpts thereof of the 2012 Kansas GOP platform followed by the critique.)

True health care reform requires a systematic approach to gaining efficiency by focusing on the patient.

I wish I knew what “a systematic approach to gaining efficiency” meant. Certainly we don’t want a chaotic approach, but why systematic? Does it mean all aspects of health care? Why not a “reasonable” or “collaborative” approach? What is the need to gain “efficiency” as opposed to being effective. Does that mean less time with a doctor or in a hospital for each health issue? And why focus on the patient? The patient doesn’t run the health care system. Doctors and hospitals run it. This lead sentence is a platitude that does not bode well for real concern about health care or the insurance that helps fund it.

Transparency of cost creates a consumer-based environment of health care, thus promoting the use of Health Savings Accounts and other similar choices that empower the individual in making health care choices for themselves and their families.

A health savings account doesn’t empower individuals in their health care choices. A HAS is a device to shield health care expenses from income tax. More platitudes.

In addition, Kansans should have the opportunity to shop for insurance policies across state lines, making the price of these policies competitive.

And should Kansans give up the benefits of state regulation of insurance policies?  Will they have to leave the state to buy their health insurance, because if it is sold in Kansas it must comply with Kansas laws and regulations. The prices of insurance policies regulated by Kansas and offered in other states by all the same companies that do business in Kansas are already competitive. This statement is a “red herring” that does nothing to reform health insurance. Is this fostered by the insurance industry to evade state regulation?

Imperative to lowering the cost of health care is the implementation of meaningful tort reform for medical malpractice.

Kansas already has passed tort reform and it did little to lower health care costs. Actually, health care providers kept their fees and charges the same and added annual increases that outpace inflation.

Under the tenth amendment, Kansas has the constitutional right to govern the state and the policies affecting its citizens.  We must reestablish our right to determine federal health care mandates unconstitutional by adopting the Health Care FreedomAmendment.  We encourage the Kansas Legislature to join in all lawsuits against the Federal Government’s authority over individual liberty and state’s rights regarding health care.

Rather than waste the State’s resources jousting with windmills like Cervantes famed Don Quixote, lawsuits and other obstructionist measures should be abandoned. Our legislators and the governor should direct their efforts at fostering the Common Good by participating in the health care reform measures in the Affordable Health Care Act. If better ways of reaching the objective of health care for all citizens, they should be offered in public forums

Obamacare may not be perfect and may not have done much to lower health care costs, but it is a start. Health care is not about “individual liberty and state’s rights”. It’s about living - living free from disease, debilitating illnesses and physical conditions, and infirmness of body/mind, and receiving care that only health professionals can provide for bodily needs. Health care is a universal service that should be available to all regardless of their station in life. Health care is about being treated with dignity in life and in death. A political party should have a platform that supports measures to make these imperatives real, rather than mere platitudes.

Dave Warren is a Kansan and co-founder of the Moderate Party of Kansas

Hustled in Kansas

Hustled in Kansas

How do you feel about the plan of Governor Sam Brownback to eliminate the state individual income tax? So far during the past session, the Legislature has been compliant with the Governor’s plan by reducing the income tax rate further over the next couple of years. It’s still a ways from Zero. This tells me that if Sam Brownback is not reelected in 2014, the plan to starve the State of Kansas of revenue will be stopped. But in the meantime, the damage will have been done as state services are short-changed.

According to its Web site, “Kansans for No Income Tax, Inc. is a nonprofit working to educate Kansas taxpayers about the benefits of eliminating the state income tax.” Toward the end of the 2012 Legislative session, the group flooded Johnson County with a mailer. It was a move to pressure Senators into supporting the Brownback revenue plan. Whether the mailer was effective or other factors prevailed, the income tax was reduced and many residents were simply exempted from paying it.

According to Kansans for No Income Tax, Inc. (KNIT), our state has the 19th highest state and local tax burden in the country and our economic outlook is ranked 37th in the nation. Never mind that no source for this data is cited, the “state and local tax burden” includes more than the income tax and, therefore, is not indicative that income tax is the problem for the relatively high ranking. Similarly, the source for the “economic outlook” rank is not given. But never mind, outlooks are not performance, merely estimates which may be accurate or not.
KNIT’s witty Web site goes on, ”Eliminating the state income tax doesn’t mean other taxes increase.” Well, the state sales tax just went up on July 1 above the rate it was set to return to before the emergency rate bump. Also, local governments are now preparing the next year’s budgets and many are seeking higher property taxes

The KNIT claims continue, “Reducing taxes does not mean eliminating essential services.” That’s a flimsy, ill-defined statement that does not address reduced budgets for state agencies, schools and higher education or other fiscal tricks like borrowing from funds dedicated to other purposes.

KNIT continues, “It’s about job creation and economic growth.” Sure, it is. It’s about making the wealthy richer. And finally, “Eliminating the state income tax provides a permanent solution to grow our state, increase personal wealth, and provide a more steady tax base for our future.” Notice that the previous statement does not say that state services and schools will be adequately funded. Actually, since the new income tax rates have not been in effect during a tax return filing period, the effect on economic growth is undetermined. If you buy their argument, you do so because you believe you’ll benefit while the other citizens of the state suffer.

The advocates of no Kansas income taxes contend that their cause will mean “more money in your pocket for Kansas taxpayers.” Is that true? I’m retired. Most of my retirement income is exempt from Kansas income tax. After applying deductions to the taxable balance, I pay little or no Kansas income tax. The truth is that “no income tax” will mean less money in my pocket as sales and property taxes rise. There are a lot of other folks who are in the same position as me. Not just seniors, but other Kansas taxpayers, should be cautious about buying this “no income tax” pig in a poke.

Written by Dave Warren

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