Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Letters to the editor

January 30, 2002

To the editor:

We are 10 days into the 2002 legislative session, and the first vote has been made which tests the mood of the House and the Senate on this year's difficulty with the state's budget. The Senate committee on Ways and Means voted on a bill that would have removed many funding commitments from the current budget, and the 2003 spending pattern which goes into effect July 1, 2002. The vote favored recision in social services and higher education, leaving the current allocations of funds for K-12 schools in this year intact.

But this is merely the first of many votes that will follow over the next 80 or more days of this year's session. The House of Representatives has not yet weighed in on spending through any voting, but our time will come, perhaps in the next few days.

Spending allowances for the remainder of the current year and next carrying us to June 30, 2003, must be resolved before we adjourn this session. As we view the revenue that will be available for appropriation, we are about $450 million short. The accuracy of that predication, and it is an estimate, will continue to be established or not as the economy of our state attempts to overcome a recession or depression. It is not comforting, but 40 or so other states are in our same economic fix.

Our goals in the House and especially in the education committee, which I chair, is to hold K-12 schools harmless in budget cuts. We will try to add funding for FY 2003, but the prospects are not good for that to happen. In order to maintain current levels of funding, we have to come up with additional revenue for schools. The Governor's proposals include increasing the sales tax, tobacco tax, and an additional penny per gallon on gasoline. Casinos at the tracks are also added by some people.

My own feeling is that we will not pass a sales tax increase, and there is strong resistance to added gambling in our state. Resistance to an increased tax on tobacco and gasoline is softer than in other areas. An alcohol tax is being mentioned.

Two additional sources of funding are being looked at for helping us to hold the line in funding for schools. I support both of these. The first is to reduce the required ending balance the so-called rainy day fund from seven and one-half to five percent. Second, I favor issuing bonds against future income from the tobacco law suits settlement, and using the proceeds from some of those bond sales to hold funding even for schools until we get through our current economic difficulty. The Kansas constitution does not allow deficit spending for current operations.

As we attempt to hold schools harmless in the face of reduced state income, we will undoubtedly see other areas of the state budget come under stress. Social programs are likely to suffer most. Help for the frail elderly and foster care are among these that will likely suffer.

My hope is that we can all pull together to try to solve this dilemma, to work through this period of revenue shortfall, and look to the return of a more solid economic base for state spending. Wringing our collective hands and shouting "The sky is falling!" is not going to help. Funds which were allocated for this fiscal year cannot be withdrawn now. It is too late in this fiscal year.

If you have a suggestion for solving these problems, write me at Room 426-S, State Capitol, Topeka, KS 66612. Thank you!

Rep. Ralph Tanner, Chairman
The House Education Committee
State of Kansas

To the editor:

This letter is in response to a letter written last week. I am the parent volunteer who changes the marquee west of Baldwin High School. I just wanted to clarify that no one affiliated with the school had anything to do with the "God Bless America" sign faux pas. As for separation of Church and State, is "In God We Trust" not printed on the currency printed by the federal government? Does the President of the United States of America often times not say "God Bless America" after a State of the Union Address. I think even Martin Luther King, whom you so nicely quoted, would have thought God needed to Bless America at this time in our troubled nation.

I never in a million years dreamed that someone would be upset by this. I simply stated what I thought nearly everyone has been thinking since the 9-11 attacks on our nation. I have friends and family who are going overseas to fight for and protect our freedom. I personally hope God does bless them and bring them safely back to us.

As stated above, I am simply a parent volunteering my time and until someone else offers to take the job over, I will continue.

Linda Gastelum
Baldwin City

To the editor:

Why is there no sidewalk leading to the new grocery store/bank/pharmacy? How can we let such a thing happen? If a sidewalk on the property is not required by code, it certainly would be by common sense.

Jeffery S. Valentine
Baldwin City

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