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Pay-go could keep spending decision serious

The "Weekly Hard Facts" is a good place to start my commentary:

* Last year, Kansas set a record for job creation in the state by adding 16,000 jobs to the private sector.

* The goal in reducing the state income taxes is to stay on a path that promotes our state's prosperity and continues to care for its residents.

* Nationally, states' budgets average 35.3 percent toward education spending per student.

* Long-term budgeting is the best way for our state to prepare for the future, and to ensure the state's vital services are receiving the funding needed to support the people of Kansas who are in need of assistance.

The first Wednesday of the session, the Senate passed a pay-go provision. This would require a two-thirds vote to consider any amendment to appropriation bills that would encompass its total cost. This might help to keep not-so-serious spending amendments out of budget bills at the end of the session. There are generally gotcha amendments that are used for re-election purposes, often at the session's end.

This year brings new and different responsibilities. I have served the past eight years on the Federal and State Affairs Committee, and this year I will be chairman of the committee. I am blessed to have two excellent staff members to guide me. Carole McFarland is my new office secretary, and Connie Burns is my new committee secretary.

"Uncork Kansas" again will be considered with the hope of prevailing this time. This is the 13th year this issue has come up. Also, there are a couple of trailer bills to fix minor problems with the mega liquor bill that was pushed through last session. There have been more than 10 bills filed about various issues so far in the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Last week in Natural Resources, Sheila Ellis and Jill Hansen testified about prairie dogs and ferret populations in Logan County.

I was really pleased with the research and facts presented to our committee. It is always better to have someone testify who is close to the problem or issue. I hope someday to see this problem resolved. This really has been an economic drain on many farmers whose land is adjacent to these prairie dog towns.

I welcome students to come to Topeka to page for me. They can call my office at (785) 296-7399 and set up a date with my office secretary, Carole. Monday is the day I am allotted because of the time and distance needed to travel.

I would encourage everyone to come and see the beauty of the Capitol, the People's House. All legislative offices and committee rooms are again under the dome.

Both chambers, the Senate and the House, are under conservative leadership. I hope this will lead to a timely session that stays under the allotted 90 days.

Gov. Sam Brownback mentioned in his state of the state address, to consider placing the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority under the same umbrella. This issue has been mentioned numerous times in the past. There would seem to be a savings, but I am not sure how much.

I will keep abreast of the issues facing the Legislature this session and especially those coming before the committees on which I serve: Agriculture, Natural Resources, Federal and State Affairs, and Education.

Ralph Ostmeyer represents the 40th Senate District. ralph.ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov