Archive for Opinions

State looks to better times financially

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

After flirting with bankruptcy, the Kansas Legislature took the necessary action to restore financial stability to state government. At least that is the way State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D- 36th Dist., sees it.

Rep. Moore was among the state legislators who were panelists at the monthly meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, June 16, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Moore said since 2012, the state has spent all of its reserves and failed to fund transportation and the state pension fund adequately. She said that by increasing the income tax and eliminating the “LLC loophole” for business, the state should be solvent. She said the state income tax will have three brackets rather than only two brackets that Gov. Sam Brownback proposed.

The “LLC loophole,” which allows business owners to escape paying any state income tax, was approved in 2012 by a Legislature that was much more conservative and aligned with Gov. Brownback. The 2016 election yielded a much more moderate Legislature, particularly from Johnson County. Political observers saw this repeal of the “LLC loophole” as a very major defeat for the governor. Gov. Brownback is expected to accept a position in President Donald Trump’s administration as an envoy to the United Nations.

About half of the $6 billion budget that the legislators control will go to fund education. The Kansas City, Kansas, School District received about $139 million from the state for the 2016-2017 school year—nearly half of its $300 million annual budget. The Legislature has suggested that the district receive an additional $9 million for the coming year. The Kansas Supreme Court will have to approve the amount that the Legislature spends on schools. A decision is expected soon.

State Rep. Valdenia Winn, D- 34th Dist., who is a history professor at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and also a member of the Kansas City, Kansas, School Board, said the proposed state funding is not enough.

Only about two-thirds of the students in the district graduate with their class. The Community College must spend a considerable amount of money in holding remedial classes in reading and mathematics. Most of these students are from the Kansas City, Kansas, District. Even some students from Sumner Academy, a college preparatory school, must take such classes, according to J.D. Rios, a former administrator with the school district who is now chairman of the Board of Trustees at the college. In past years, Sumner Academy has been recognized as one of the top high schools in the United States.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. His is executive director of Business West.

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Opinion column: Legislature approves budget

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

It took 113 days, but the Kansas Legislature finally passed a budget measure Saturday, June 10, that will help fund an estimated $900 million hole in the next two years’ state budgets. It will also add $488 million to school funding during the next two years.

These were two of the facts that members of the Legislative Committee learned last Friday morning, June 9, as they met at the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce office for their monthly briefing.

Kathy Damron, the lobbyist for the chamber, said it was a long and very tiring session. Two of the members of the chamber’s committee, David Smith, lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kansas, School District, and Mike Taylor, lobbyist for Unified Government, agreed that the session this year was exhausting.

The additional money to fill the budget hole and to fund schools will come primarily from two sources—individual income taxes and elimination of the “LLC Loophole” that exempts some 300,000 Kansas business owners from paying income tax. Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed the exemption that passed in 2012. It was supposed to generate a substantial amount of new business with many new employees; that didn’t materialize. Instead, many of the state’s basic services suffered, including law enforcement and mental health services. Tax revenue did not increase as predicted.

In Gov. Brownback’s defense, major industries in the state, including agriculture, gas and oil and aviation, have suffered in the past few years. Had these industries prospered, Brownback’s tax plan might have worked.

The Kansas Supreme Court will have to approve the additional school funding and the distribution formula. According to Smith, the Kansas City, Kansas, School District presently receives about $139 million in state aid. The new appropriation formula would provide about $9 million in additional state funds.

The Legislature approved the provision for sales tax bonds through 2020. That legislation is what helped finance Village West development, paying for infrastructure such as streets and sewers. It would also be used to develop the new home of the American Royal and ancillary developments.

This probably means that Kansans will be paying more taxes than ever before. Unfortunately, bad fiscal management during the past few years caused state finances to suffer. The state was forced to “borrow” money from highway funds to balance its budget.

No one likes a tax increase. But a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, including those from Wyandotte County, stepped forward to take the necessary action to help solve state finances. Basic services, including education, law enforcement and mental health services, were at risk.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.

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Kids’ fishing derby to be Saturday at Wyandotte County Lake

by Lou Braswell

The annual Ed and Ione Trapp Kids’ Free Fishing Derby will be Saturday, June 10, at the Wyandotte County Lake Kids Pond. The event is sponsored by the Leavenworth Road Association and the Unified Government Parks and Recreation Department.

This event was started 30-plus years ago by Ed (a KCK firefighter) and his wife, Ione Trapp, with helping hands from the Leavenworth Road Association and Wyandotte County Parks and Rec. Now involved in the derby are some of the great-grandkids of youth who took part in the event 30-plus years ago.

The Unified Government Parks and Rec Department stocks the pond, along with other equipment they provide to make the event successful and fun.

Leavenworth Road Association provides goody bags, some bait, and a free hot dog for each registered youth. Year after year with our super volunteers and donors, we watch the kids catch the fish and we get to catch all the smiles.

Registration begins at 7 a.m., with the “throw your line in” whistle blowing at 8 a.m.

The weigh station will get busy with the catches almost immediately. We have four age groups, and each age group has first, second and third-place winners. There is also one “largest fish” winner of all the age groups.

This year District Attorney Mark Dupree will be presenting the trophies.

The long-range forecast shows plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the high 80s, what more could we ask for? The fish are hungry and will have up to 200 kids ready to feed them, what more could they ask for?

Need more information? Call the office at 913-788-3988, email LRAKCK@sbcglobal.net, or visit the website, LRAKCK.org Pick up one of the LRA newsletters at the event to learn more about the LRA and its activities.

Lou Braswell is the executive director of the Leavenworth Road Association.

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