Rep. Mike Kiegerl (R-Olathe) describes the 2011 legislative session with one word – “painful.”
“As you well know this was a very tough session in the sense that we inherited a $500 million budget shortfall and we were determined not to tax our way out of this recession,” Kiegerl told the Edgerton City Council during its most recent meeting. “We were determined not to raise taxes.
“Raising taxes in a recession is about the worst thing you can do. It increases unemployment, it slows down the recovery and in fact it might put you in a deeper recession or depression.
“It was not easy. It was painful. There was pain all around.”
However, Kiegerl said the Legislature did the “right thing” by passing a budget that includes a $180,000 surplus.
And there are signs that the state’s finances are improving.
“The last two months receipts have been higher than expected, so perhaps things are getting better in the state of Kansas,” Kiegerl said. “…I think people in Washington could take a lesson from the people in Kansas because we have done what needs to be done to get our financial house in order.”
Keigerl said the Legislature is making headway with income tax reform and hopes to reduce personal and business income taxes incrementally over a five year period if state receipts are sufficient.
“That will tremendously stimulate the economy,” he said. “But we’re not there (yet). It is going to hopefully happen in the future.
“I think it is the right thing to do because consumption is two thirds of Gross Domestic Product – our wealth and all that we make and own. If you take money out of the consumer’s pocket…it is a downward spiral.
“My view on taxes has always been that if we need to tax we need to tax consumption and not income.”
Kiegerl, 72, said some of this work was thwarted during this year’s session when he suffered a stroke in February and missed 18 days of work and 3.6 percent of final action votes.
“My voting record and my perfect attendance record over six years is shot,” he said with a laugh.
Kiegerl said he is determined to follow through on issues he is passionate about, not the least of which is children and family issues.
He serves as chairman of the Children and Family Issues Committee.
“We have 4,000 disabled children on waiting lists,” he said. “These are not charity cases. They are kids that need help. We know that they need help, we know that we need to take care of them. And we say well take care of you but you’ve got to wait. That is unconscionable and shameful.
“We cannot allow this kind of shameful behavior to continue. I want to make sure these kids are taken care of. If you have an autistic child, they need physical therapy, they need speech therapy…Autism is not curable, but it is treatable and we have to treat it. That is something I am very passionate about.”
Kiegerl also supports education reform.
He said the state spends $6.2 billion on education. Of that 58 percent goes to the classroom and 42 percent goes to administration and overhead.
“We have 293 school districts and 293 superintendents, secretaries, computers, etc. California has 75 districts.”
Kiegerl said consolidating 293 school districts into 40, with 10,000 students each, would save the state about $300 million per year.
“We don’t lay off a teacher, we don’t close a school,” he said. “We fire 253 superintendents.”
Kiegerl said a summary of all bills passed as well as executive orders issued is available at kslegislature.org/klrd.
Kiegerl reflects upon legislative session, outlines future goals