Compromise is a breath of hope
Compromise is the oil that keeps our lives in harmony and keeps our government gears turning. Now a compromise carefully worked out between Gov. Laura Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning is carrying Medicaid forward here in Kansas, offering medical help to more of our struggling citizens. Steve Owens is our state representative elected to represent us. He is bitterly opposed to this compromise. On his Facebook page he accuses Jim Denning of being a turncoat, abandoning his moral responsibilities in return for wealth and power. Steve Owens has the right to his own opinion and he has the right to his own actions. But he does not have the right to demand we share his opinion, nor to demand our actions mirror his. In these fractious times compromise is a breath of hope!
— Beth Vannatta, Halstead
Austerity is needed
I read The Newton Kansan article "Gov. Laura Kelly wants lawmakers to pay down debt, refinance KPERS" (Jan. 7 issue, thekansan.com). First off, while I do not disagree in the slightest the virtuous "wish list" of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly "wanting" the Legislature to pay down a $477 million obligation to KPERS, the state retirement fund.
The goal is noble, but getting lawmakers to find that kind of money isn't like digging in your pockets for pocket change. That's close to half a billion dollars (with a "b" in billion). A good share of this shortfall came during the administration of former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback with his misguided deep tax cuts, which nearly bankrupted Kansas. His successor Gov. Jeff Colyer was left holding the bag and now (to her credit) current Gov. Kelly wants the retirement fund solvent and secure.
Again, I applaud the wish and the goal. I just think it will take much more than the governor asking. I think the stark realities are that current state officials (even the governor, Legislature, university professors and KDOT employees and others may have to take some sort of pay cut. Even current KPERS pensioners may have to eventually take a 1 to 3% cut in their retirement. I know that won't be popular. However, the past decade was essentially a decade of unbridled spending. This decade (to repair the financial crater) it must require sound and unvarnished math which, no matter how you slice it, will demand, a long period of austerity, even if state revenues are growing a little.
The damage has been done. It's fix it now and bite your lip and feel some pain. Or, the Legislature can continue to tap dance to where the situation grows more perilous and the pain will be far worse and even more threatening to retirees. It is sad. I know: Retirees faithfully paid in, but past politicians double-crossed them. Now is the time to pay the piper. Gov. Kelly, it won't be popular, but you must make deep across-the-board cuts to even come close to your half a billion dollar wish list. I wish money grew on trees, but it doesn't.
— James A Marples, Esbon