GOP doomsayers want Kansas to reject fed money

Republican leaders in the Kansas Legislature continue to resist using federal stimulus money to avoid budget cuts, as Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed.
“It’s extremely exasperating,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Re-publican. “It’s smarter to stop spending now than two years from now, but people just can’t seem to accept that.”
What Sen. Emler would rather do, one gathers, is to cut next year’s budget by $625 million and let the feds keep their money.
The state expects to receive $1.7 billion from the stimulus. Sebelius wants to use $585 million of it to help avoid a deficit in fiscal 2010, and she’d use an additional $375 million to keep the fiscal 2011 budget balanced, AP writer John Hanna reported.
Sen. Emler went on to say that the budget problem will be even worse two years from now when the stimulus money will stop coming, “if the economy doesn’t turn around.”
His caveat is critical: If the economy doesn’t turn around four years after this recession began Kansas and the rest of the country will be in truly deep trouble and a second Great Depression will be underway. No one knows when the stock market will turn up and stay there. Optimists think last week was a start. Even the most pessimistic economists predict an upturn by 2010. Maybe half of the market watchers expect a turnaround by late this year. No one, with the possible exception of Sen. Emler, seems worried that we’ll still be mired in recession in 2012 and 2013.
This point is worth making for two reasons. First, if Kansas and other Republican states decide not to take the stimulus money, then that much of it will remain unspent and won’t serve its economic purpose. Leaving it unspent in Kansas could affect the state’s economy adversely. Second, cutting next year’s budget by $625 million will short change Kansans who would otherwise benefit from leaving next year’s budget close to this year’s level.
Why on earth cut spending on the public schools, the state’s universities and community colleges, on Medicaid, law enforcement, the developmentally disabled, etc., etc., etc., if the cuts aren’t necessary?
The answer Sen. Emler and his ilk give is that the Legislature needs to learn discipline.
But when they put on their hair shirts, it’s the state’s children and the state’s unfortunates who will feel the most pain, not them.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.