It’s difficult to find a starting point in the latest nonsensical editorial from the Topeka Capital-Journal. The opinion piece says the Supreme Court’s decision on school funding is a “consequence” of the last five years of Kansas tax policy. (Readers can be pardoned for inserting eye rolls and sighs here.)
To make its point, the editorial quotes former state budget director Duane Goossen, under whose tutelage the state had illegal negative ending balances and faced charges of securities fraud for failing to disclose the dumpster fire that was the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration was left holding that bag. When he took office, KPERS was the second most underfunded public pension system in the country. The Sunflower State is now in the middle-of-of the pack. The Brownback administration poured millions into the system shoring it up.
Goossen says, “Public education could have been funded adequately.” That, of course, depends on one’s definition of “adequacy.” Someone should ask Goossen if propping up KPERS to the point that retired teachers can count on it can be a consideration for “adequacy.”
The editorial suggests that had taxes never been cut, the state could have expanded Medicaid. One member of the Cap-J editorial board is a lobbyist for Medicaid expansion. This information is never mentioned, which seems like a serious violation of journalism ethics. The good news is the Cap-J now appears willing to admit that expanding Medicaid expansion actually costs money. The editorial board has in the past suggested Kansas is foregoing a bag of free money by not expanding Medicaid. Readers can be grateful the ed board now appears willing to admit there are state costs associated with it. So there’s that.
They write that the Supreme Court is responsible for interpreting the Constitution, and that document, they opine, “requires the Legislature to provide adequate and equitable funds to our schools.” Except, the words “adequate” and “equitable” don’t actually appear in the Kansas Constitution. Article 6 says the Legislature must provide “suitable” funding, but schools sued over that word decades ago, and the Justices opined in previous funding opinions that “suitable” meant “adequate” and “equitable.” (Kansas needs a dictionary writer instead of attorneys representing the state in school finance cases. Otherwise, the Court will just substitute new words.)
“Loose talk about defying the Supreme Court makes a mockery of this Constitution, the rule of law and the separation of powers in Kansas,” the ed board writes.
The Kansas Supreme Court and its lobbyist allies have crafted a moving funding target. They won’t say how much, because they don’t have the authority to appropriate funds. That hasn’t stopped Justices from saying the answer is “more.” Always more.
More works for schools, but not for Kansans. In its most belittling point, the Capital-Journal argues that Kansas “sacrificed billions of dollars to Brownback’s pointless tax cuts.” The tax cuts benefitted every taxpayer in the state, but to the writers at the Cap-J more money in readers’ wallets is “pointless.”
They don’t get it. That’s money that individuals could use to upgrade their properties — increasing its value and increasing their property taxes in the process. Or, that’s money that could be used to start a business or buy a family learning tool like an Ipad or a newspaper subscription. The Capital-Journal editorial board members think it makes far more sense for millions of your dollars to be used to line the pockets of lawyers suing the state. Spend accordingly, Kansans.