TOPEKA, Kan. - From KNEA News...
The state-wide coalition Kansans for Quality Communities (KQC) held a press conference in the capitol today at which they called upon legislators to pass a tax increase to support vital state services and keep Kansas communities strong.
Speaking at the press conference were KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, Kansas Organization of State Employees Executive Director Jane Carter, Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas Executive Director Shannon Jones, InterHab Assistant Executive Director Matt Fletcher, and Kansas Families for Education Executive Director Kathy Cook.
"The people of Kansas have elected their legislators to put the needs of all Kansans ahead of political expediency or ideology. Today more than ever, we are in need of a legislature that can set aside partisanship and demonstrate a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in the quest to preserve and ultimately strengthen our state and our communities," said Desetti.
KQC pointed to hopeful signs that more Kansans were ready to take up the banner for strong, vibrant communities in every corner of the state. Noted was the study released by the Kansas Economic Progress Council demonstrating that more cuts to state services had a more negative effect on jobs in Kansas than a tax increase. The study was conducted by economist John Wong of Wichita State University. (Read the study by clicking here.)
In addition, 16 local chambers of commerce have broken ranks with the state chamber in calling for a tax increase to preserve public education, roads and highways, and the social service safety net.
Members of the coalition told the press that just as Kansans could count on the highway patrol responding to an accident and could count on the school doors being open to children every morning, service providers want to see a budget they can count on.
Following is the statement released by the Kansans for Quality Communities:
Our organizations have come together under the umbrella of Kansans for Quality Communities. We serve every community in Kansas and our constituents touch every Kansas family. We educate Kansas children, we care for our neighbors with disabilities and mental health issues; we ensure that our seniors can stay in their homes.
We represent the spirit of a Kansas that pulls together for one another. We stand for safe, healthy and vibrant communities, with strong economies and sound infrastructures and for social assistance for citizens who need a little help for a chance to succeed.
Tomorrow the Kansas Legislature will return and work to resolve the budget for the remainder of this year and for the next fiscal year. We recognize the difficulty of the task before them, knowing that there are rarely easy answers.
But we believe fundamentally that the people of Kansas have elected their legislators to put the needs of all Kansans ahead of political expediency or ideology. Today more than ever, we are in need of a legislature that can set aside partisanship and demonstrate a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in the quest to preserve and ultimately strengthen our state and our communities.
Last week, we laid out the impact of budget cuts that have already taken place. The news was grim. Yet there are still some who believe that the only solution is to dismantle more of the services that promote a high quality of life in Kansas.
Fortunately, there is a growing recognition that revenue must be raised and services preserved if we expect to emerge from the recession in a strong position to capitalize on future opportunities.
We would point first to the work of the Kansas Economic Progress Council who questioned the conventional wisdom and called upon Kansas economist John Wong of Wichita State University to analyze the impact of further state budget cuts and a sales tax increase. The study, released just last week by KEPC and Dr. Wong, demonstrates that deeper cuts to state services will have a more negative effect on the Kansas economy than a sales tax increase. The facts are there. More jobs are lost through budget cuts than through an increase in the sales tax. Coupled with the loss of vital services, simply cutting more would have a devastating effect on the quality of life in Kansas.
We would also point to the group of 16 local community chambers of commerce who have broken ranks with the state chamber and urged the Legislature to raise taxes to preserve public education - both k-12 and higher education - as well as the social safety net and the quality of our state infrastructure. These business men and women recognize the contribution that comes to business from a well-educated workforce, a sound system of roads and highways, and services for our most vulnerable citizens.
Today we urge the returning Kansas Legislature to listen to the people. Listen to the parents and grandparents of our school children. Listen to our university, community college, and technical college students. Listen to our neighbors with disabilities or facing a mental health crisis. Listen to the correctional officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us all safe. Listen to the social workers who keep an eye on children in difficult circumstances. Listen to the health care workers who serve our seniors.
The members of Kansans for Quality Communities believe that cuts have gone far enough - in truth, cuts have gone too far in their negative impact on the quality and quantity of services on which Kansans depend. Deeper cuts will result in a long term decline in our children's educational opportunity, in early childhood and prevention services, in our infrastructure, and in providing care for our most vulnerable citizens.
In "holding the line on taxes," the Legislature will not be helping Kansans. Instead, they will be shifting the responsibility for preserving our quality of life back to local communities. Inaction will cause a shift in taxation from the state onto the
local property tax base. Inaction will force those who might be served in home and community based programs into much more expensive institutions. Inaction will stall and even reverse the great gains our public schools have been making in raising student achievement. Inaction will threaten the safety of our citizens.
We call upon all Kansans - and all Kansas legislators - to join us. Let us all stand together to save Kansas for the future of our children and grandchildren, in ways that truly reflect the values of the state we are proud to call home. Much has been said about job losses during this recession. Most of the discussion has centered on job losses in private industry. It is important, however, to understand that any lost job is a reduction in spending in the Kansas economy.
Desetti, Cook, Fletcher along with Mark Tallman from the Kansas Association of School Boards will be on Community Bridge, Thursday 29 April to discuss what is happening in the Kansas Legislature regarding the 2011 Budget.