Category Archives: Issues

We Must Properly Fund Our Schools

School

Kansas has always been known for its excellent schools. One reason is that  school funding is provided for in the Kansas Constitution which says : “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” Kansas schools are a bargain for the taxpayer as Kansas schools rank eighth in the nation in quality while the seven states above Kansas all spend more per pupil than Kansas does. Much of the success is due to the quality and commitment of teachers and educators in Kansas. We must see that they are paid adequately for their services and, just as important, that their services are recognized and appreciated.

Equitable: Kansas’ laws require that school funding be  both equitable and adequate. In 1973, the legislature passed the School District Equalization Act (SDEA)to ensure that students in districts with a low tax base would have as much chance at a quality education as those from richer districts. It also provided property tax relief for districts with a small tax base. The state picks up more of the cost of those schools according to a school funding formula designed to ensure equity. In a challenge to the SDEA in 1992, the court ruled “the duty owed by the Legislature to each child is to furnish him or her with an educational opportunity equal to that owed every other child.”

Inexplicably, in 2015 the Legislature decided to abandon the school funding formula and use a block grant system to fund schools.  That created a Constitutional crisis which could have resulted in the schools being closed. That was resolved in a special session in June where the Legislature came up with $39 million to address the equity issue to the court’s satisfaction.

Adequate: The court was also not satisfied with the adequacy of the funding. In 2018,  lawmakers added $548 million be phased into the state’s $4 billion education budget over the next four years. The court ruled that that was not adequate as it did not allow for inflation. To address that issue, the 2019 legislature added another $90 million per year over the next three years. After that, school funding will  be adjusted annually for inflation by using the CPI. The court accepted this as adequate, and the Gannon school funding lawsuit is for now settled. The court maintained jurisdiction in the case to be sure the Legislature followed through on the funding in future budgets.

Higher education has also been hit by budget cuts. State funding for higher education in Kansas has decreased by 8.6 percent, or nearly $100 million, since 2007-08. In  2016, $16 million was cut from higher education to close a budget gap for that fiscal year. In 2017, a 4% across-the-board budget cut further reduced the higher education budget by another $30.7 million. The 4% percent cut was unwise as it was based,  not just on the state’s support, but on the  schools’ total operating budgets. This cut even more from  the state’s research schools, i.e., KSU, KU, the University of Kansas Medical Center, and the KSU Veterinarian School. This year,  the 2019 Legislature approved an increase of $34.4 million for higher education. That is certainly a step in the right direction but it still does not make up entirely for previous budget cuts.

Kansas’s future: Cuts to colleges and research facilities are never wise. Where will the new ideas come from to improve Kansas’s competitiveness and economy? The Legislature even sold off the Biosciences Research Facility which was to make Kansas a leader in bioscience and genetics research. If we do not fund our colleges properly, where will we get our next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs? And, will our next generation of college students b prepared if we do not fund K-12 education properly?

Excellence: Equitable and adequate school funding are not really enough. The Legislature  must make it a priority  that education funding is not only adequate, but at a level to ensure excellence.

We Must Expand Medicaid

Health1

Thirty-seven states have expanded Medicaid, but Kansas has not. Our failure to expand Medicaid has so far cost Kansas $3.4 billion, which is mostly our money since we paid it in federal taxes. But the greater cost is that 150,000 of our working citizens do not have health insurance. This has greatly hurt our working poor, our hospitals and our medical care providers who are often not paid for their services. This has hit rural areas particularly hard as they do not have the resources to make up for the loss. Rural  hospitals and clinics have been forces to close and it is estimated that 30% more are at risk .

The Alliance for a Healthy Kansas has a plan to expand Kancare, Kansas’ Medicaid program. Federal dollars will pay for 90% of the cost and Kansas will be responsible for 10% of the cost, making it a great bargain. If the plan is adopted:

  • It would provide medical care coverage to 150,000 low-income working Kansans who cannot not afford it. They do have enough income to receive subsidies from the Affordable Care Act but make too much to qualify for the present Kancare system.  It would cover preventive medical care and greatly reduce the spread of communicable diseases.
  • It would inject $5.3 billion into our economy in just the first 10 years.Those funds would have a multiplier effect on consumer spending,  business activity,  jobs,  personal income, and  state tax revenue.
  • It would create jobs. A study by George Washington University found that expanding KanCare would create 3,500 – 4,000 new jobs in the next five years.
  • It would cut the unpaid bills for emergency services.  Emergency room care is very expensive compared to preventive care. Emergency rooms are required by law to treat everyone, and those without medical insurance often wait until they are very sick and then go to the emergency room for care. Unreimbursed costs drive up costs for everyone and endanger the financial stability of medical care providers and hospitals.
  • It would reduce bankruptcies.  Many of us are just one major accident or illness away from a bankruptcy. A Harvard study found that about 50% of all bankruptcies in the United States are caused by illness and unpaid medical bills. Bankruptcies affect everyone because the health providers, banks, businesses, and credit card companies who lose money in the bankruptcy pass the cost on to the rest of us.
  • It would improve everyone’s health. Your family’s health depends on the health of everyone in your community. You and your family will likely come into contact with thousands of people during this next year. People without health insurance are much less likely to receive immunizations and preventative care – and are much more likely to have untreated communicable diseases.

Much of the opposition to expanding Medicaid is related to opposition to the Affordable Care Act. A study by the Brooking Institute found that 37 states who have so far expanded Medicaid are satisfied with results  and none wish to withdraw from the program.

The 2019 House of Representatives passed Medicaid expansion by a vote of 69 to 54, and there were enough votes in the Senate to pass it, but the Senate leadership refused to let it come to the floor for a vote.  The Senate leadership promised that they would have a bill ready for vote in January 2020, and we are hoping their word is good. That delay will cost Kansas about  another $665 million. It is time we tapped into the Federal funds available and made health insurance available to the 150,000 Kansans without medical coverage.

Cut the Sales Tax on Food

Untitled-food tax 1_8x8

The 2012 tax cuts left a $7.3 billion hole in the Kansas state budget. To make up for it, the legislature passed the largest tax increase in history and even that did not fill the budget hole, as it got deeper every month. The tax increases may have made the economy worse as it took money out of the hands of those who were most likely to spend it.

The worst tax increase was in sales taxes, particularly the increase in tax on food. That took money from the pockets of low income Kansans and those on fixed incomes . It was particularly unfair for senior citizens, as they have been paying income tax all their lives, and now they must pay more for food.

During the 2019 session, the Legislature passed  HB 2033 which would have reduced the sales tax on food about one cent. That proposal was bundled with a sales tax decrease on corporations, an Internet sales tax increase, and a proposal to allow Kansans to itemize deductions on their state form. The governor vetoed the bill and, though almost every legislator supported lowering the sales tax on food, there were not enough votes to override the veto as many people objected to other parts of the bill.

Though this year’s budget ended up with a small surplus, there was  not enough money to pay the debts we have accumulated, particularly in child and family services, prisons, pension funds, and infrastructure. Once those are paid, the Legislature should work on eliminating the sales tax on food.

Kansas Must Develop Its Renewable Energy Resources

windmillsWe must develop our renewable energy resources for health reasons, economic reasons, and environmental reasons.

Health reasons: The American Lung Association estimates that there are 26,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma caused by small particulates, much of it emitted from coal-fired power plants and from coal ash disposal. They estimate the economic benefits of reduced exposure to particulates alone could reach as much as $281 billion annually. Recently, fine particles have been implicated as a cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and new research has revealed a troubling link between mental illness and air pollution that seems to particularly effect children.

Economic reasons: Besides reducing health care costs, a switch to renewable energy will help keep our future electric rates low. Wind and solar are falling in cost and are now competitive with energy from coal-fired power plants. Recently AEP/PSO in Oklahoma purchased 800 MW of wind energy saying the cost was now less than building new coal fired plants, and that the purchase will save an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter. Kansas currently has 27,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. Of those jobs 75% are in wind energy, and are growing at a rate of 2.3% per year.  By the end of 2019, 36% of Westar’s retail electricity will come from the wind.

Environmental reasons: Coal is 65 to 95 % carbon. What about the rest? Burning coal releases mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide,  particulates, and radioactive isotopes. Burning  coal releases millions of tons of pollutants into the air and leaves several hundred million tons behind in the coal ash. Some pollutants stay in the air and others eventually find their way into the water, the food chain, and into us. For comparison, mercury is 100 times as toxic as cyanide, arsenic is 20 times as toxic, and chromium(VI) is 4 times as toxic. These three are also are carcinogenic and accumulate in tissue. Even exposure below the allowed levels increases the chance of cancer over time. The sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide released by coal combustion harm plants, produce acid rain, and increase the greenhouse gas concentrations. Switching to renewable energy would greatly reduce these  pollutants and help preserve the environment for future generations.

Summary: Investing in clean energy protects the environment, reduces death and disease from air pollution, and creates good, local jobs. Kansas must develop policies to encourage the development of renewable energy investments and energy conservation. Our energy needs will best be served by a mixture of traditional and alternate energy sources, and Kansas must be proactive in developing our renewable energy resources.

Endorsements

endorsement

Wichita Eagle :

Moore dedicated

With a sense of greatest respect and confidence, I would like to endorse GOP candidate J.C. Moore to represent the people of Kansas House District 93. I have known Moore for more than three decades as a close friend and colleague at Newman University.

Moore is known for his passion to help students succeed, his warmth, kindness and generosity of spirit. His masterful teaching and academic advising skillfully guided his students into careers serving their communities as physicians, teachers, scientists and allied health professionals. Since retiring, he has decided to devote his time to representing the people of Haysville, Clearwater, Cheney, Viola, and surroundng areas in the Legislature.

Moore is a person of integrity, honesty and foresight. He is determined to restore fiscal responsibility to Kansas, fund education properly and provide health care through expanded KanCare. His utmost concern is to provide education to children and young adults by procuring adequate funds for our schools and universities.

I enthusiastically endorse J.C. Moore to represent District 93.

SURENDRA SINGH, WICHITA

Women for Kansas (Nonpartisan)                                                                          “A” rating
 
Moore caring, competent

I have known J.C. Moore for decades to be a caring, competent individual, consistent in his commitment to the Kansas community.Kansas is struggling with severe economic difficulties that have led to a deterioration in our educational and health care systems, and a shifting of taxes to the middle class and poor, as well as continuing to under fund our pension system.With his scientist’s grasp of facts and figures and his willingness to problem solve without being trapped by rigid ideologies, he will effectively work with individuals of both parties to address these issues. To me, he exhibits a quiet spirituality in his steadfast concern for the common good, and will be a breath of fresh air in our state Legislature.— Dr. Charles A Gaynor, Bel Aire

Endorsements: Time for change 
Wichita Eagle Letter:
Moore excellent

I would like to call your attention to an excellent candidate who is running for the Kansas House. J.C. Moore has a wealth of what we need to bring to the Legislature at this time. Namely, common sense, decency and an interest in the common good of the state of Kansas.

Moore is a highly educated scientist and professor with a sense of the common touch. He has come out of retirement to serve the state and try to improve our very poor performance in the past few years.

As a board-certified children’s vision specialist, I have particular interest in his intention to expand Medicaid in Kansas. We have lost more than $1 billion by our ideological opposition to aiding the poorest Kansans with basic health care. This is foolish in every way. If Moore is elected, he will seek to rectify the situation.

PATRICK J. PIROTTE, WICHITA

Goals

Here are my goals for keeping Kansas a great state and the best reasons for them – our children and grandchildren.

jc moore election 2018_8117

Park city Parade

Other Articles: