Steineger said that we should look at the current budget crisis in Kansas as an opportunity to redesign and reinvent Kansas government.
He asked “why do we have 105 counties?” The answer is that made Kansas counties small enough that everyone could have a one-day horseback ride — the mode of travel in 1861 when Kansas was formed — to the county seat. But today, we have cars, highways, telephones, cell phones, airplanes — a lot of things have changed. But we still have the same administrative structure.
Businesses change their products and management structure to adapt to the times, he said. Government should do the same thing.
Based on his 13 years in the Kansas Senate, Steineger said he’s learned that government doesn’t change itself a whole lot. “We don’t change the underlying design structure, the underlying management structure, the underlying administrative structure. We still have 105 counties, and that was based on horseback riding.”
Steineger told of how in his home county (Wyandotte County), the county and the city of Kansas City formed a unified government. It hasn’t saved much money, he said, but government has become much more effective. Consolidation can work.
He went on to say that we could also downsize the Kansas legislature. Kansas has 40 senators and 125 representatives. “We really don’t need that many people to make decisions in Topeka.”
Summing up, he said that we should consider reducing the number of counties and downsize the legislature. There is a window of opportunity of about two years to make these changes. After this, revenue will probably start flowing in again, and people won’t want to change.