ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
Money will be the big issue for the state legislature this session, according to Don Dahl, Hillsboro, who represents the 70th District in the House of Representatives.
?The big item I think everybody is going to be concerned with is balancing the budget,? Dahl said.
After four to five years of tax cuts totaling $1.5 billion, the state is behind $70 million.
Dahl said the budget would be a driving factor behind everything the legislature does this session.
He does not expect any new programs to be introduced and hopes to find funding for current programs.
Dahl also would like to see funding provided for the programs the state promised money to, such as mental health and education.
?I?m not saying that?s not right but once it is passed you should fund it,? Dahl said.
He said the situation does not come up often, but when it does it is a problem.
?I guarantee if they hadn?t had cuts, they would have spent the money and would have even more programs to fund than now,? he said.
One example of programs needing funding are the mental health hospitals that were shut down.
The state expected the communities to provide the services, but funding was not given for the home and community based services, including services for the frail and elderly.
?There are a lot of people who don?t have the backbone to say they don?t have the money to fund it,? Dahl said.
School finance will be another hot issue, Dahl said.
An additional $50 per students was promised to be added to the base, he said, and if the money is not received, schools will be frustrated because they have to revise their budgets.
?I think we need to meet our obligations, and if we can?t do it we need to have the backbone to say we can?t do it,? Dahl said.
Talk is floating around Topeka about raising taxes to make up for state?s shortfall, but Dahl said he was strongly opposed to increasing taxes.
Dahl did say he would like the issue of property valuations to be addressed.
He said although taxes have been cut, individuals tell him they have not seen a decrease in what they pay.
Dahl said he wants to find out where the money is going.
?If people haven?t seen tax cuts, what?s the problem?? he asked.
Dahl feels taxes are being increased for individuals through property evaluations.
?I?d like to see some kind of cap put on it,? Dahl said.
He suggests indexing evaluations to inflation rates.
While money is not available for large programs, Dahl expects a lot of small programs to generate interest this year.
Some of the issues to be discusses during the session include gambling, late-term and partial-birth abortions, and utilities retail wheeling.
Education also will be discussed. Three education plans have been introduced and some legislators are talking about doing away with the Kansas State Board of Education.
Other issues of interest to Dahl are looking at ways to be farmer- and business-friendly and maintaining good water quality.
?It?s one of these things that you just don?t know what exactly will get accomplished,? Dahl said.
This is especially true this year because it is an election year.
Dahl hopes the issue of charging sales tax on the Internet will be explored.
He said there has been a lot of talk about it among business and government leaders
Dahl feels cities, counties and states are being hurt by Internet sales, which have been increasing.
Dahl got involved in the legislature when a seat opened up three years ago and plans to run for a fourth term.
?There were a lot of issues out there I felt very strongly about,? he said. ?I thought rather than just talk about it I would go do something.?