Rep. Mike Kiegerl (R-Olathe)

Guest Columnist

The long column by Kansas Senate President Steve Morris in the June 25 paper cannot remain unchallenged , and I’m frankly surprised there was no editorial commentary. Let me therefore comment on his extraordinary attempt to run from his record and to cover those who voted with him in support of  the calamitous budget bill.

I speak for the legislators who acted responsibly and lost the battle in the House to make the state live within its means by two votes. Morris argues that there was no alternate  but to raise taxes. He is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts, which are as follows:

Starting last fall, the Appropriations Committee met to develop the upcoming budget with the need to address a substantial shortfall in revenues. In this effort, five subcommittees laboriously went through department budgets line by line to see what cost savings were possible. I served on one of these subcommittees and in the aggregate we spent more than 1,000 hours to arrive at a balanced budget without a tax increase.

This was ready by the end of March and Morris never let it come to the Senate floor to be debated. Therefore deliberations were deferred until the week of May 3, the wrap up session which is to last 5 days.

Two days before the end of the term we were presented with a 648-page document containing the budget concocted in secrecy by Morris, our turncoat governor, and a number of so-called Republicans  who supported the “gut and go” maneuver  that removed the budget prepared by the House and inserted an entirely new budget which included the tax increase.We never had a chance to debate our bill. After nine hours of debate of the Parkinson/Morris proposal, that bill was adopted by a two vote margin.

Morris states that critical programs would be in jeopardy were there to be further cuts and he cloaks his argument that K-12, law enforcement, corrections and social services were threatened.In other words we had to raise taxes for the children, the old people and for education. This is absolutely false. There  were increases for each of these areas in the House budget. We restored the 10 percent Medicaid cut, and at my insistence added $6.9 million to reduce the shameful  wait list for disabled kids. This is not enough, and I battled on the floor in vain to add another $8 million to eliminate it altogether. Public safety and corrections also got more funding as did education. We  even restored $82 million of the $170 million in one-time federal funds which were not available this year.

There was some pain in our bill. It required a hiring freeze for the state government ,a 5 percent pay cut for some government employees ,the sale of public property, deferment of some spending and more cuts in the departments not mentioned above.But we would not have burdened our citizens with a higher cost of living.

Morris calls an 18 percent increase in the sales tax “modest.” Perhaps he can explain this perception  to the average Kansas family which will need to pay $30 a month more starting next week. I don’t buy it, if you have a house and car payment just add another $360 a year to your obligations. I also don”t believe that this tax will sunset in three years. While I won’t be in the legislature in three years to vote for elimination, our record is dismal on sunsets.

Morris misrepresents the economic consequences of the bill he helped pass. It will make Kansas less competitive. We already have higher total taxes than all the surrounding states, except for Nebraska. Our unemployment will increase substantially.

One study demonstrates that 20,000 jobs will be lost in the first year alone. And it will slow the recovery. Raising taxes in a recession is toxic,  but Morris insists this sets the ground work for increased economic growth. Hogwash

It is no surprise that those who foisted this economic burden on us are looking for excuses to explain their vote. Many have heard from their constituents. Many “Republicans” who supported the tax increase have primary opponents and they’re running scared.

Morris accuses those of us who fought his economic folly as spreading false and misleading information, but the facts are there for anyone to see: It is the tax and spenders who must bend the truth to score political points.