Discussion was helpful during legislative coffees

Last weekend?s legislative coffees were well attended, and both Sen. Jim Barnett and I were grateful for the opportunity to meet and discuss the issues of greatest concern to you. Thanks for taking part in our government process.

We now have the unofficial figures for the state?s revenue in February, and it is again below the estimate predicted by Legis?la?tive Research. This time we are about $70 million below the estimate, putting our 2010 fiscal budget?the budget that ends June 30?about $100 million low.

Besides that, we will start the 2011 budget year July 1 $370 million in the hole, so we are likely to spend much of the remainder of the session grappling with these matters.

Gov. Parkinson has announced he will analyze the 2010 budget shortfall this week. He is likely to order further adjustments, which could include greater cuts.

As for the House, our Appro?pri?ations and Tax Committees have not indicated how they propose to tackle these budgetary monsters. The Tax Committee has held hearings on repealing numerous tax exemptions, but it has taken no action.

Your surveys are still coming in to me by the boat loads. I am overwhelmed by your enthusiasm and willingness to fill them out and return them. I ask that you keep in mind a survey is just that?it is an opportunity for you to express your thoughts on various issues, and it allows me the opportunity to learn what you all think.

The survey is not like voting; there is no ?winning? or ?losing? position on the matters. The survey?s greatest value for me is that I gain a sense of your thoughts and ideas; I can see how strongly the people of the 70th District feel on a subject.

What came through clearly is that you understand most of these matters are complex and have competing interests. You obviously weighed the issues before answering or commenting.

I worked very hard to formulate the questions, and tried to phrase them in a way to take my ideas (other than choosing the subject matters) out of the mix. I must have done OK writing neutral questions, since one responder thought it was obvious from the way I wrote the questions that I would not raise taxes, and another responder thought I would.

Again, the survey isn?t about what I favor and oppose. I needed and wanted your thoughts, not an echo of my voice. Your comments are most helpful, and will help me formulate my responses to upcoming issues. Thank you all for sharing. Once the surveys are tallied, I?ll share with you what you collectively think; I mention one of them below.

Last week Thursday, the House concurred with a Senate bill to ban smoking statewide. The measure had become a perennial issue in the legislature.

Ultimately, after a spirited debate the bill advanced to the governor?s desk on a 68-54 vote and is expected to be signed fairly quickly. The survey totals are not complete, but you might be interested in knowing that, after tallying the first 900 surveys (we still have more to do), about 65 percent of you advocate the statewide smoking ban and 35 percent oppose it.

This subject came up in 2008 during the campaign, and it was good to see, by and large, you agree with my commitment to vote to pass this legislation.

You may e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or you may call me at 620-382-2133 or 785-296-7699.

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