Sam Brownback has been a brave steward for actually implementing the plans of the Tea Party. It is one thing to talk the talk, but it is quite another to walk the walk. Sam Brownback is exactly that; he is not just a craven Republican hoping to shore the Tea Party into his camp, he's a die hard believer. But after a few years of living under a fervent belief that this path would lead to success, what have investigators uncovered?
The school nurse, who comes in only twice a week, freezes kitchen sponges to use as ice packs because her budget is too small for her to buy any.The State of Kansas has instituted a series of brutal, across the board cuts in order to meet specific goals. But rather than re-invest, the state would prefer to spend their tax dollars fighting Don Quixote court battles over protestation of gay rights, refusal of ACA, and a new fight over Fluoride (Yes, Fluoride)
Schools have always had to fight for more funding, but Noble Prentis' problems were exacerbated during the recession when state budget cuts left schools, like many other public services, foundering. Now, the state's general fund revenues are up $150 million since 2008, but Kansas officials are in no hurry to restore spending cuts the economic downturn made necessary.
How have these battles serviced Kansas? After all, just cutting funding for schools couldn't be enough to help establish budgetary changes within the state, other cuts had to be made to meet that goal. The LA Times covers this as well.
Funding per student in Kansas schools is 16.5% lower than it was during the recession, according to Leachman's organization. State support for libraries, health services and community corrections is also down, all by more than 10%. Kansas state and local governments employ 5,700 fewer people than they did in 2008.The LA Times forwards thoughts of Small Business owners who feel the Kansas taxes may still be too high. This would be a compelling argument, however, I can't find any time in history where a Chamber of Commerce voiced the idea that taxes were too low. It's part of their job, more importantly it doesn't amount to the fiscal requirements of a government.
Sara Belfry, a spokeswoman for Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, said in an e-mail that the governor came into office when the state had $876.05 in the bank and a projected deficit of $500 million. Brownback "made it a priority to streamline and make government more efficient while protecting core services like public safety and education," she said.
Under Brownback, Kansas has put money back in taxpayers' pockets. His administration points out that, among other things, the state ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of its budget committed to education. (Kansas ranked 33rd in the nation in per-student spending in 2012, according to the National Education Assn.).
"A decade of higher taxes, more spending and bigger government failed to deliver prosperity," Brownback said in his state of the state address this year. But now, he said, "Simply put … the government is back in its proper place — serving the people."
But smaller state government has failed Kansans in some corners of the state.
Saline County in central Kansas lost more than $1 million in state funding and lacks enough money to maintain the roads, so it closed 20 bridges, forcing residents to drive farther to get to their destinations.
In wealthy Johnson County, the director of the health department says staff cuts mean the department can't respond as quickly to disease outbreaks.
And in Shawnee County, where the coroner's budget was cut by more than half in 2011, there is only one forensic pathologist left. If the coroner, Donald Pojman, goes to a meeting or is out sick or on vacation, bodies are held for days before an autopsy can be performed.
"I'm really behind in getting these autopsy reports out in a timely manner — and I used to be very efficient with these," Pojman said. "But we went from a daytime staff of 15 down to four, and now I have to do the autopsies and the paperwork and coordinate with law enforcement and the courts."
The brutal truth is that the government does serve a purpose; providing justice is a key part of it. The long delays in processing autopsies for use in criminal prosecution is both a denial of service to graving families and friends, it is a denial of justice to a community that seeks prosecution and to a defense attorney who hopes for vindication. These are the things a society is built upon providing - justice and services to our citizens.
If we are unprepared to handle those, then the government is not doing the job it is tasked with at the most core element - it is a government that doesn't work to protect the citizens within its borders.
But for most parents, it is school closures, class sizes and the lack of services that parents can get their hands around.
"A lot of Kansans think, 'Let it be; don't make waves,' and that was me until a year ago," he said. "Class sizes were the tipping point."In Neosho, Crawford, Shawnee, Montgomery, Grey, Logan, Trego, Barton counties (and several more) previously paved roads have been turned into gravel or meshed rock in order to cut corners. How has that worked out for Kansans?
A coalition of school districts and parents has sued the state, arguing that the funding from the state was not enough to suitably educate children. A three-judge panel agreed, writing that it was "completely illogical" for the state to cut taxes while blaming an economic downturn for spending cuts.
Brownback appealed that decision, and is awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court.
Driving on roads in need of repair costs Kansas motorists $646 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $319 per motorist.Saline County closes bridges. The state has delayed infrastructure demands for water works that it estimates as around $4B in required spending.
An additional $3.2 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs is also reported. The EPA’s 2013 report, based on a 2011 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs survey and assessment, indicates Kansas has $4.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs primarily towards transmission and distribution, and the majority of it for medium (3,301 to 100,000 persons) and small (3,300 or fewer persons) water systems.http://www.kwo.org/...
In the end, what Austerity is buying Kansas is this:
Schools that struggle to educate.
Services for prosecutors and criminal justice that can't get justice for their citizens.
Health Services that can't provide for the people, and threats to take over medicare. (see previous diaries)
Roads that are falling apart or reverting to gravel, costing citizens money.
Bridges that are being closed.
There is a difference between saying: We want a small government as opposed to a government that is hard set on turning a state into Ruins. Where a state spends the money needed to provide justice. A state that cares about the education of its citizenry.
Instead, we are a state that prefers the mantra of: low tax for no service. Give it a few years, at this rate you'll start paying to have your own well for drinking water.