A typical day at the Kansas Legislature costs taxpayers approximately $60,000. Because some staff goes home after the 90th day, which is all the session is supposed to last, the daily cost drops to about $43,000.
So, every day in this overtime period lawmakers spend attempting to fashion a budget that balances rings up another $43,000 in unplanned expenses. The amount is interesting, as it exceeds the average savings 330,000 Kansas businesses received by not having to pay income tax any longer.
If you recall, income tax reductions were supposed to be the shot of adrenaline to the state economy. Except it didn’t happen. The majority of companies simply pocketed the money as extra profit. The same legislative majority that was led to believe those dollars would stimulate the state is now spending more per day than those companies saved in a year.
Kansas taxpayers should not be compensating lawmakers for their ineptness. Ninety days should be plenty for the current conservative herd to divine what Gov. Sam Brownback wants and make it happen.
Therein lies the problem, perhaps. State representatives and senators were busy fashioning laws about guns, abortion, welfare recipients, judges, state retirements, what should be taught in public schools, how to punish public school teachers for teaching science, how to funnel public money to private schools, how to free certain schools from the shackles of accountability, how to siphon public funds out of necessary programs to pay for private administrative incompetence, how to free up money for the general fund by consolidating the turnpike authority into the Department of Transportation, and how to protect religious freedoms for companies while denying civil rights for real people.
These were all things the governor wanted, and there are enough legislators in Topeka to make them all happen.
But these distractions occupied so much of the Legislature’s time, lawmakers simply didn’t get around to fashioning a budget. You know, the one item they are required to do?
Lawmakers should not be paid for any service past 90 days this session. They don’t deserve it.
Fortunately, there are at least a few elected leaders who have voluntarily turned down the salary. Sixteen Republican lawmakers — including Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton — are refusing the $88.66 daily pay. Two of the 16 aren’t accepting the $129 per diem lawmakers receive.
“We’ve been here 90 days,” said Rep. Fred Patton of Topeka. “I don’t think it’s fair to add to the shortfall just because we couldn’t finish in 90 days.”
We could not agree more. In fact, since the two chambers are in the habit of passing punitive measures against various groups of Kansans, they should add themselves to the list.
As they await instructions from the governor for their next step, lawmakers should pass a bill denying payment of any kind to this and future legislatures beyond the 90th day. It won’t make up for the litany of bad laws that made it onto the books this year, but at least salt won’t be ground into the wounds regular Kansans have suffered.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry