Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones have enjoyed the holidays. And as we move forward in 2011, it’s once again that time for the Kansas Legislature to convene in Topeka and work the will of the people.
I think that the title of one of Bob Dylan’s hit songs, “The Times They Are a-Changin”, aptly sums up Kansas politics for the foreseeable future. For the past eight years that I have served in the Legislature, a coalition of moderate Republican and Democratic legislators has guided the legislative agenda in Topeka. That coalition was effectively dissolved in the November elections as Democrats lost 16 House seats to more conservative Republicans. The Kansas Senate appears to be the remaining moderate entity in Kansas state government.
This political sea change comes at a very crucial time in our state’s history. Kansas’ economy is stuck in neutral, and the Legislature will be struggling to come to terms with how to address the loss of approximately $500 million in federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) assistance in crafting the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. While there can be no sacred cows during tough financial times, Kansans nevertheless could see some very real and fundamental shifts in support for various programs and services given the change in prevailing political philosophy. Investments in K-12 education, higher education, Medicaid and public safety programs could all be cut as policies that cut income taxes and other revenue sources are implemented.
Everyone knows that the state’s number one priority, particularly during these tough economic times, is to create good-paying jobs. But the real issue to be debated is how to go about doing it – should the state be cutting taxes and relying on the private sector, or should the state be making targeted investments that will eventually spur job creation? And if the state is to be making investments, what are those programs and services that will provide Kansas the biggest “bang for the buck”? These are the issues that should be driving a lot of the debate in Topeka. And given the change in political makeup of the legislature, Kansas voters may be seeing some different outcomes than what has been pursued over the past decade.
So sit down, strap in and hang on, Kansas – this is going to be a very interesting legislative session!
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Thank you for letting me serve as your State Senator. I always appreciate knowing where you stand on the issues our state is currently facing. I can be reached at (785) 296-7668 (daytime) or (785) 865-2786 (evenings). My e-mail address is Tom.Holland@senate.ks.gov. If you would like to be added to my e-mail newsletter mailing list, please send me your e-mail address. I also keep a Facebook page and my website is http://www.TomHollandforKansas.org.