Report from Topeka, July 3, 2005

Thanks again for this report from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


It was a hard, long slog for the 11 days of the Kansas legislative session that began June 22. Using the phrase, “hard, long slog,” is one that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had used in describing the war in Iraq.

The hard, long slog of the Kansas constitutional crisis continues with a break for legislators until Wednesday July 6. By then, the final FY 2005 revenue figures should be in.

Yet there is a phrase from the Vietnam war that is quite descriptive for the situation in Kansas.

“We had to destroy the village to save it.”

This phrase has been attributed to various sources and most seem to (dis)credit it to left-wing flak Peter Arnett who was last seen generating excuses for Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet that phrase accurately describes what the Kansas Supreme Court’s latest edict: “We have to destroy public schools in order to save it.”

The court’s July 2 edict threatens the closure of the state’s public schools unless its spending mandate is met. This edict represented a judicial hissy fit because the divided Kansas legislature did not meet the court’s July 1 date for increasing spending. The court issued an unusual Saturday afternoon ruling while the legislature continued to meet.

This edict is odd because it will hurt the court’s position in this constitutional crisis. This is despite the fact that increasing spending by $143 million seems to be a goal which the bulk of the legislature is quite willing to meet, and then wants to spend more! Since the state does not have the revenues any increase in funding to these levels leads to a fiscal/gambling meltdown.

The state does not have the capability to fund any increase in K-12 spending above about $86 million for the fiscal year that began last Friday (unless there is a surprise among the last tax collections coming in for the fiscal year). To increase funding to the $143 million (court’s level) or $147 million (house’s last offer) or $149 million (senate’s last offer) will require increasing taxes/fees/whatever or expanded gambling (the governor’s preferred option). All three of these options destroys the ability of Attorney General Kline to take a case into federal court’s concerning this state court’s outrageous edict since the legislature is on track to surrender their fiscal powers to the court. If the legislature succumbs this year they will have no basis for challenging the court’s $568 million in increased public school spending (the court’s figures, its actually a lot more) for next year.

If the legislature approved a funding bill of only $11 million in additional spending, like the house’s initial offer last week, would have provided AG Kline with plenty of room to argue the legal case against the Kansas Supreme Court in federal court. Sadly, tax and spenders RINO’s like senators Jean Schodorf and John Vratil passed out of the senate with all ten Democrats and half of the GOP senators supporting a $160 million spending increase. This is fiscal follies that only the federal government, with their unlimited ability to print money, could even contemplate following.

Sen. Vratil bragged to reporters last Friday that the senate had “compromised” by offering to cut the spending increase to $149.9 million and came “2/3” of the way down to the house’s last offer of $145 million in increased public school spending (this would be on top of the $142 million approved last April for a total that is now approaching $300 million or about a 10% increase). This was misleading to the press and public extended to other remarks he made in the conference committee. Sadly, the legislators who came to Topeka threatening to vote against a penny more for public schools have steadily retreated with the overwhelming vote supporting the school spending lobby in the senate and the very narrow majority that fiscal conservatives and constitutionally concerned house members have been able to maintain within the GOP caucus in the house as the final opposition to fiscal insanity. Eroding away the house Republicans are at least 17 GOP house members who are voting with all 42 house Democrats for any and all opportunities for higher spending.

In the school finance conference committee Vratil said that the senate opposed any hard trigger that would require passage of a constitutional amendment for voters before the additional spending would occur. This was the opposite of what he had told his GOP colleagues in the senate a couple of hours earlier. This is a key for fiscal and constitutional conservatives in both houses. This statement generated outraged comments within his own senate caucus. Conservative Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe went public calling him and the rest of the GOP senate leadership as “liars” in press interviews she conducted Friday night.

Fiscally responsible Kansans need to inform their legislators how they feel about the constitutional usurpation that is continuing in Kansas. Please feel free to forward or quote from this article.

The decline and fall of Kansas and this state’s economy continues as Governor Sebelius, the Sebelius dominated Kansas Supreme Court, a majority of the state seem to trip over each trying to destroy the private sector in this state by irresponsible fiscal policies.

Today, the Kansas press predictably blamed this impasse on conservative house speaker Doug Mays and the legislature. The liberal and left-wing editorial pages in this state are already starting to target legislators who are trying to prevent fiscal insanity at the statehouse. Today’s Wichita Eagle editorial (July 3) is a good indication of the nonsense being distributed to among the Kansas press. Sadly, there is a strong chance that portions of this editorial will end up in the news coverage of the Kansas press too.

Karl Peterjohn
KS Taxpayers Network
www.kansastaxpayers.com

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