Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Maintenance of effort: The next big battle

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Maintenance of effort: The next big battle

Kansas Policy Institutes' brilliant Senior Fiscal Policy Analyst Steve Anderson dropped a new paper last week outlining the challenges state governments face due to federal Maintenance of Effort (MOE) budgeting requirements.

Anderson, yes, that Anderson -- the former Kansas State Budget Director -- explains that Maintenance of Effort requirements remove state legislators' ability to control their own budgets. Essentially, the feds give the states "free money" in the form of grants. Kids, free isn't really free. That federal money comes with strings attached.

The biggies are education funding and Medicaid. Combined, Anderson writes, those two items consumed two-thirds of the Kansas' FY 2014 budget.

"These MOEs bind governors and legislators to spending requirements with no regard to the states' budget situation or governing priorities," Anderson writes in the paper's executive summary.

These MOEs are the next big states' rights fight. Someone needs to pick it -- ahem, Gov. Brownback. 

In a KPI press release, Dave Trabert, the org's president, urges legislators to say Just Say No to the promise of free money. 

To do so, requires enormous courage, because there will be pain at first. (And by pain, I mean, budget cuts. This needs to happen anyway, so it's really a win-win once you get past all of the Whining Whiners Who Whine™ whining.) A large portion of Kansas' budget is comprised of welfare from the feds in one form or another. In fact, a significant portion of the an anticipated $62 million-ish shortfall was filled by new federal funds. Barf.

I've kind of been waiting for Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita media (Someone? Anyone? Bueller?) to pick up the maintenance of effort story. It's just sitting there, all gift-wrapped, awaiting the investigative attempt of some journalist. There's a big story there! But from the mainstream media, so far, crickets. 

I don't get it.

I also don't understand why KPI chose to release this story and press release on a Friday (July 31) right before August. I mean, that's when savvy public relations people release damaging news. No one is paying attention on a Friday in the summer. It's hard enough to get people to pay attention to anything that isn't Kardashian/Insert Celebrity of Scandal of the Week related on a random weekday, let alone on a Friday. And on a Friday in the summer? Why even bother writing a 14-page white paper if you're going to drop it into the summer weekend abyss? It's like KPI wanted to bury Anderson's efforts. Why? Because Kansas just took a federal bailout?    

Despite the deafening silence on the topic, it matters. It matters greatly. The feds can barely take care of their own business. We certainly don't need those bureaucrats meddling around in Kansas or in local schools. Yet, that's where we're at.

I am telling you, this is going to cause a fight. And probably soon. Anderson believes that this issue is a winner for conservatives on principle, if some savvy state would just test the political waters.

Here's hoping it's Kansas. (But I'd put my money on Texas.)

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