Getting back to the Kansas way

By Rod Haxton, editor

‘Tis the season for political endorsements by the media.

It’s a practice we’ve refrained from because, if we’ve been doing our job, you already know who we support and who we don’t.

We’re going to break from that time-honored non-tradition and endorse Paul Davis for governor.

“Easy for you,” you might say. “You’re a liberal Democrat.”

Fine. We’ve been called much worse. But that’s not the reason.

If you want to put a label upon us then we’ll make it simple. First and foremost, we’re a Kansan. If you want to get more specific, we’re a Western Kansan and we’re proud of it. We care about this state and the people in it.

When state budget cuts impact the well-being of youngsters who need Head Start or nutrition programs, we don’t wonder if their parents are Republicans or Democrats.

When state funding cuts affect the elderly in Kansas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. These are Kansans. They are our parents and grandparents, or the parents and grandparents of other Kansans we know. What happens to them should matter to all of us.

When the Kansas Supreme Court says that public schools are underfunded, that money isn’t being distributed in a fair manner to schools across the state, or that equal opportunity isn’t available to all Kansas students, the court justices don’t see the children of Republicans or Democrats. They see the children of Kansans who deserve every opportunity at success.

Unfortunately, we now live in an environment in which politics - particularly ultra-conservative politics - trumps everything else.

Still sound like a liberal Democrat talking?

Okay, then we’ll ask the following question, not as a Republican, but as a Kansan: What has Sam Brownback done to make Kansas a better place to live and to improve the quality of life for Kansans over the past 3-1/2 years? (We could ask the same of the Republican-controlled legislature, but that’s another question for another election).

The Brownback Administration, the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) and others have been blowing smoke for months about how much more money is going into education. Don’t take their word for it, or ours. Visit with your school administrators and take a look at local budgets. You’ll see the impact of state budget cuts over the past several years and that funding for schools continues to lag far behind where it should be.

These are budget numbers that affect every Kansas child in every public school. And when these same schools are forced to close their doors in rural communities, it affects us as Kansans - not as Republicans or Democrats.

The number of children in the state’s foster care program has reached record high levels at the same time that funding for foster care services has been reduced. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat problem. It’s a Kansas problem.

Kansas hospitals are pleading with Gov. Brownback to expand Medicaid in Kansas. To date, the decision not to expand Medicaid has cost Kansas more than $316 million in federal funds (and counting). The fact that Brownback and the legislature refuse to consider this expansion is a problem facing every Kansas hospital in every community.

Furthermore, expanding Medicaid would provide health insurance to an additional 78,000 low-income elderly, disabled and children in Kansas - regardless of their political party.

 

If that isn’t enough, massive tax cuts signed into law by Brownback are bankrupting our state treasury and have led to the downgrading of our state’s bond rating. And economic recovery in Kansas lags behind that of our neighboring states.

These aren’t issues that affect us as Republicans or Democrats. These affect us and our neighbors as Kansans.

Unfortunately, Brownback and the ultraconservative wing of the Republican party aren’t interested in what’s happening to Kansans. They’re even less interested in having the interests of all Kansans represented in Topeka.

In order to drown out the voices of dissent and push through their political agenda they purged the legislature of moderate Republicans, as if those people shouldn’t exist in our state. This was done in order to serve a small spectrum of what still calls itself the Republican party. It wasn’t done in the best interest of Kansans.

Massive tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and corporations have led to a huge shift in the burden to property taxes across the state. Brownback’s political spin can’t hide the fact that the vast majority of Kansans are being forced to pay the price for a political agenda that’s been pushed by conservative Republican interests.

We support Paul Davis, not because he’s a Democrat but because he wants to make this state a better place for all Kansans. Given that a growing number of moderate Republican political leaders are backing Davis, it shows that they are also weary of the “our way or the highway” approach to governing.

It’s time we returned to caring for our children, looking after our elderly and supporting those less fortunate who need our assistance. It’s time we returned to responsible taxation that also includes building a better future for our state.

We aren’t looking for a Democratic way or a Republican way. We’ve seen more than enough of the Sam Brownback way.

It’s time we returned to the Kansas way.

Rod Haxton can be reached at editor@screcord.com

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