CRANTON — Ken Corbet, 54th District member of the Kansas House of Representatives, spoke with constituents Saturday at the Scranton Tavern. The event was hosted by the Osage County Republican Central Committee.
Corbet opened the meeting by distributing information related to the budget passed in House Bill 2178, which was later vetoed by the governor. The document touted HB 2178 as “the largest tax increase in state history.” The House voted to override the veto, but the Senate came three votes shy of clearing the governor.
“The state has a hard time living within its budget,” Corbet said. “A lot of people thought HB 2178 just dealt with LLCs. Everybody gets to take a piece of the pie.”
Corbet continued, advocating everyone has a stake in the game, including the 30,000 Kansans who make less than $15,000 a year that do not currently pay income tax.
“My question would be, then, what is the plan to address the deficit in the budget,” asked Steve Pegram, USD 434 superintendent. “You’re broke at the end of the year.”
“That’s the big question,” Corbet said. “The state is taking in more money every year. It’s spending more than it takes in every year.”
Corbet pointed to the recent Medicaid expansion as an additional cost for the state.
“They’re going to have to get the money somewhere, somehow,” he said.
Corbet also noted HB 2178 was not the last bill to address the budget.
“They’ve got tax bills lined up like planes at KCI,” Corbet said.
Corbet advocated bills that balance the budget on a monthly basis, as well as paying for things as you go.
“My goal is to get everything paid off before I die,” Corbet said. “I’m working on both of them.”
Pegram turned the attention to the state administration, led by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, and its tendency to do the opposite.
“We’re just passing that debt on to someone else to pay for it,” Pegram said. “Why would we keep borrowing several billion dollars to pass down the road. That’s the leader of the Republican party that’s doing this. If you’re a conservative, why do you borrow money to pay for a future generation. You pay for your bills now.”
“That’s probably going to happen now,” Corbet said, citing huge Republican majorities in the House and Senate. “If there’s anything the state wants, there’s enough votes they can have it. You cannot dream big enough this session, to get everything you’re going to hope for.”
Corbet and Pegram also discussed school finance formulas, including the current block-grant formula and enrollment-based plans that are on the table.
“The districts that are losing their enrollment don’t have to address their problems,” Pegram said. “The districts that are growing get penalized.”
All five of the Osage County school districts have struggled to maintain enrollment. They also discussed voucher programs being pushed by the party.
“Vouchers don’t bother me if it’s a fair, level field, but they aren’t,” Pegram said. “They don’t have to take the special education kids that cost more.”
Others in attendance addressed the rising costs of college and health care.
“If I had the answers, I wouldn’t be here,” Corbet said. “I want this state to grow. I want my kids, when they get out of school, to know that there are jobs on main street. It frustrates me when we have the world’s greatest roads and they use them to get a job somewhere else.”