Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence

Guest Columnist

If you haven’t noticed, the Kansas Legislature has been having a tough time.  There are a myriad of issues being debated in Topeka, but the state budget is the $85 million pound gorilla.  Why $85 million?  This is the amount that House Republican leaders want to cut from programs like Meals on Wheels to pay for future tax cuts that will mostly go to corporations.

So far, they haven’t been able to get their way because Democrats and moderate Republicans are standing in the way. We believe that after $1.3 billion in state budget cuts over the past two years, the state of Kansas cannot responsibly cut programs like Meals on Wheels, early head start, mental health crisis funding, and many other valuable state programs.

This disagreement and the lack of leadership from Gov. Brownback are the root of why the Legislature was unable to pass an adjusted budget in January and why it had a great deal of difficulty passing a budget for the next fiscal year.

The past couple of years the state has operated with a minimal ending balance because the Legislature has tried to lessen the damage of budget cuts to education, vital social services and public safety programs.

This train of thought has changed because Gov. Brownback and House Republican leaders have insisted that building a large ending balance takes precedence over our responsibilities to Kansas children, low income seniors and vulnerable citizens.

Here’s what is on the chopping block: 55,000 meals from the Meals on Wheels program, direct care services for 1,100 low-income senior citizens, day and residential services for 2,400 persons with developmental disabilities, general assistance for 2,000 Kansans.  And this is in addition to the largest cut in funding to our public schools in state history.

You may be asking: why should we cut these programs just to produce an ending balance?  The answer is because Gov. Brownback and House Republican leaders are planning for big tax cuts next year that will end up going mostly to corporations.  It sure would be nice to cut taxes, but I don’t believe we should do it at the expense of low income, vulnerable Kansans who have perhaps been hit the hardest by this recession.

Rep. Paul Davis is the Minority Leader of the Kansas House. His district, the 46th, includes part of Lawrence.