Clay Barker, Kansas Republican Party executive director and chief council, was the speaker for the Dickinson County Republican meeting held Monday at the Senior Center in Abilene.
Barker talked about the situation in Kansas in January of 2011 and the reasons for reforms at the state level. Kansas ranked in the top 20 percent of the nation for debt per capita with KPERS debt the 48th worst. Kansas was the highest taxed state in the Midwest and ranked sixth highest in the nation for public employees per capita.
The state had experienced a net job loss over 2001-2011 with a balance of $870 left at the end of the budget cycle in June and $550 million deficit forecast for the following year. Overall, our state had high debt, big government, high taxes, and taxpayers leaving.
When Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was elected he chose the high road, forgoing doing nothing new to get re-elected. Instead, he initiated changes to right the ship of state, Barker said.
Kansas is now the second lowest tax state in the region with a reverse loss of taxpayers. Budget cuts left a $500 million surplus to ride out lower tax revenue and budget cycles were extended to cover two years for better planning capabilities. Executive branch expenditures were reduced by 10 percent and 48,000 new jobs have been gained.
KPERS reforms have been started, but are still a work in progress. In agricultural areas, water law has been addressed and bio fuels and wind energy capabilities promoted in the energy sector.
Future goals include a redo of the K-12 finance formula to get more money to the classroom, getting KPERS financially solvent and becoming more business friendly.
The event was sponsored by the Dickinson County Republican Central Committee and Dickinson County Republican Women. Those in attendance enjoyed a meal together and spirited conversation after the program. The next meeting for the Dickinson County Republican Women’s group will be Nov. 4, at noon at the Hitchin Post meeting room.