Budget not the only issue at stake

The 2009 legislative session officially began at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12. It was a brief session on the floor as we were officially sworn in; we then listened to remarks from House leadership.

On Monday night, the governor presented her State of the State Address in the House Chamber. In her speech she said that she would not raise taxes, and that was essentially all Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had to say about the budget.

The following day she released her budget recommendations?which included what could end up to be a local tax increase by up to $142.7 million.

She intends to suspend fund transfers (payments from the state accounts) to the cities and counties of Kansas, which forces counties and cities to come up with that money from other sources (most likely a tax increase) or heavily curtail local services.

By not transferring the money out of the state general fund, the governor improves the bottom line for the state?s general fund, but the buck is passed to the local governments, and the governor avoids making any significant cuts. It simply transfers the problem to someone else?s shoulders, and could leave us crippled in two years.

Many of us in the Legisla?ture believe we must make some of those cuts so we are not left with a larger, deeper problem in the near future.

If you would like more information on the governor?s revised 2009 budget or proposed 2010 budget, please contact me.

One positive thing to come from the governor?s State of the State speech: Gov. Sebelius spoke of activities and projects in Kansas that will lead to new jobs for Kansans, lift our economy over time, and improve the lifestyle of Kansans.

It was a reminder that, while the matter of the budget is huge and immediate, the budget is not the only issue to occupy our time. We have other fish to fry, other matters to focus on.

While we cannot blindly protect any area of government from examination of its inefficiencies, we must not gut those parts of our government that work and work effectively, particularly in times of trouble.

On that same note, we started gathering information in the Education, Judiciary, and Corrections/Juvenile Justice committees. The topics of efficiency in education and Kansas?s performance in relation to the money we?re spending were addressed, and will be on the front burner this session.

We will likely take up the inequities facing Chase County and other geographically large rural districts that are disadvantaged because of decreased enrollment.

We will be reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of the connections among Court Services, Community Corrections, and the parole system, and we will examine whether we can increase efficiency, as well as provide better monitoring of convicted felons.

We will also talk about children in need of care, juveniles in the corrections system, foster families, people with autism, and others who need a voice in the Legislature.

These are all worthy matters to debate, and should not be lost in the all budget-related work we must do because of the weak economy. This might actually be an opening to talk about real substantive changes for the betterment of all. In all, we must not allow ourselves to forget those who are unable to fend for themselves.

I had the opportunity Thursday to tour Fort Riley and see all the construction going on as it expands. It will be a long-term boon to central Kansas, and should positively impact Marion County, particularly the north end of the county.

Thank you for the granting me the honor to serve you as your 70th District representative. Please don?t hesitate to stop by if you are in Topeka.

You can also contact Rep. Brookens at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861; or by email at brookens70@sbcglobal.net

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