Wishful thinking by the GOP

By Rod Haxton, editor

Kansas House Republicans recently decided to become clairvoyant and gaze into their crystal ball to predict - of all things - that newspapers are dying.

And we thought it was only acid reflux.

News of our impending death arrived via e-mail from the office of House Speaker Ray Merrick who was apparently able to divert some extra cash from KDOT to get a direct line to Miss Cleo.

Without the help of a psychic, we could make the same prediction for a Republican Party so void of ideas that the only way it can desperately cling to power is by making it difficult for tens of thousands of Kansans to vote. Or, we could write a eulogy for a Republican Party that feels threatened by Hispanics, gays, science, teachers, the transgendered, the Supreme Court or most any day of the week that ends in “y”.

One could write books - and someday it will probably happen - about the psychological mess that is today’s Republican Party. Not us. If newspapers truly have one foot in the grave, then I’d rather use my last breath to commend the Kansas media for doing its job.

According to the anonymous statement from the House GOP, “We respect journalists who make an effort every day to convey the truth and the full story with their readers . . . .” And, likewise, journalists respect lawmakers who are equally willing to convey the truth and the full story to their constituents.

That’s where the problem lies. We can’t agree on what constitutes the full story.

For example, House Republicans really aren’t interested in having their constituents understand how the legislature has raided about $1.3 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation’s T-Works program since 2011 and transferred that money into the general fund to fill a huge budget gap. That figure is expected to climb to $2.1 billion through 2017.

You can thank newspaper journalists for bringing this important information to light.

For example, it was the Topeka Capital-Journal - not Speaker Merrick - that revealed the 2016 budget allows the legislature to borrow as much money as it wants over a two year period in order to fill KDOT’s coffers.

“It was buried,” admitted Rep. Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) who serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Public Safety. She said the provision was never mentioned in the committee’s discussions on the budget.

That happens by the time you get to page 326 in the state budget - which is where this provision was buried.

It was responsible journalism that revealed irresponsible legislation.

This is what causes ultraconservative Republicans such as Merrick to get annoyed with newspapers. All politicians love a media that simply regurgitates the news releases handed out at press conferences or during campaign stops. What they don’t like is a media that bothers to ask tough questions or digs deeper into a story.

We all understand how the game is played. Politicians tell only what they want you to know. Good journalists try to discover what they aren’t telling us.

When journalists are successful in filling this information gap and it reflects poorly on politicians then, to no one’s surprise, these politicians are the “victims” of a liberal media.

The next time the Kansas GOP wants you to believe that a biased media is dealing in half-truths and hiding the facts. Consider this:

 

•Who revealed that the Brownback Administration and the GOP leadership were considering the sale of tobacco settlement funds for a one-time payment of $158 million - giving up tens of millions of dollars in future revenue for children’s programs?

•Who has told Kansans about the state’s continued failure to meet revenue estimates and how that’s impacting state services?

•Who has explained to Kansans why some 330,000 corporations are no longer paying taxes in the state?

•Who has told of secret meetings being held at the governor’s mansion which violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act?

•Who has informed the public that due to severe cuts in highway funding, rather than repairing 1,200 miles of highways each year, the state now has only enough funding for 200 miles per year?

We could go on, but in each instance the answer would be the same: It’s not the Republican Party.

And that’s what angers this Administration and fellow ultraconservatives. They don’t want you to know the extent to which the Brownback’s “real live experiment” is gutting Kansas financially.

This is the same Republican leadership that prefers burying crucial financial information on page 326 of a state budget - not page one of the Capital-Journal.

This is the same Administration which insists that despite the fiscal disaster which it has created, “the sun is shining in Kansas.”

We are the last line of defense against ultraconservatives who see no consequence in crippling programs that protect the well-being of our children, provide a quality education and rebuild our infrastructure. We are the institution that’s leading the fight to protect the constitutional guarantee of an independent Supreme Court.

Government has a responsibility to uphold the laws and to serve the greater needs of the people. It’s our responsibility in the media to make sure government fulfills that role.

Are newspapers dying as Ryckman claims?

Ryckman and his ultraconservative faction also predicted how wonderful life would be in Kansas with massive tax cuts.

To paraphrase a famous newspaper editor, “The prediction of our death is greatly exaggerated.”

Rod Haxton can be reached at editor@screcord.com

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