Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Thoughts on Stuff

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughts on Stuff

Republican delegates to Kansas' Third District gathered last night and elected three delegates and three alternates to the Republican National Convention. 

Chad Bettes, Amanda Grosserode, and Vicki Sciolaro will serve as delegates. I have yet to hear who the alternates are. I also do not know which of the three delegates was the highest vote getter. This matters. As Clay Barker, KS GOP Executive Director, explained two of the 3rd District delegates will be bound to candidate Ted Cruz. The third will be bound to Marco Rubio. Kansas' rules don't allow its delegates to become free agents until released by the candidates themselves. The most powerful person of the Third District delegates will be the delegate bound to Rubio, because it is quite likely he or she will become a free agent at some point during the convention. The highest vote getter of Bettes, Grosserode, and Sciolaro will choose to whom she is bound. The second highest vote getter takes second choice. 

My favorite part of these types of events is people watching. So, I'll give you my quick and dirty thoughts.

  • There were fewer people there than I would have thought. There are 109 delegates to the Third District, and 30 alternates were seated. I am continually surprised at the people who put their names in to serve as delegates and then never show. 
  • I always wonder what on earth any of those in attendance have in common with one another. Strange crowd. The only thing most have in common -- to everyone's credit -- is that almost to man, these are pro-life people. Other than that, it's a diverse crowd, maybe not in race or socioeconomic status, but in every other way -- lots of exotic birds.
  • There's a real divide among elected officials. It's quite clear that the cracks from this year's legislative session are beginning to show. 
  • There were times as we awaited results from the delegate vote that I felt like a hostage. There was a lot of dead time, and instead of releasing everyone to the foyer to buy snacks from the cute church youth group fundraising for a mission trip or to visit the tables of GOP-leaning organizations and pick up brochures, the microphone was turned over literally to anyone who wanted to share jokes. Not my monkeys and no my circus, but I would have greatly preferred a few small nuggets of information followed by permission to network and chat. That was awkward.
  • Most tellingly, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was given some time at the microphone in which he boasted of the great state of Kansas' affairs. The great divide now is over the LLC loophole in the state budget, and Lt. Gov. Colyer is on team #KeeptheLoophole. I am not sure this particular crowd is on that team.
It's difficult for me to take a side in this debate. I recognize the loophole was an unintended consequence, but I am also not opposed to starving the bureaucratic beast by whatever means possible.

That said, it's really important for Kansans to understand just how well the Brownback Administration, with the help of allies in the Kansas Legislature, have slimmed down the state's spending. The average growth of state spending from 1966 to 2010 was 9 percent. 

Since Brownback took office in 2010, the growth in state spending has slowed to 1.8 percent on average. And the average growth in all funds has been 1.3 percent. Rejoice! However, living small for the past several years has taken a toll, and revenues are not meeting budget expectations. There is a budget hole that must be filled.

Despite less spending growth overall, school funding has increased $300 million. School funding comprises 50 percent of the state budget. Medicaid is another 20 percent. That leaves very little of the budget in which to take a hatchet.

So lawmakers are in an unfriendly place, and they are not often helped by Brownback, who sometimes suggests spending or carve outs in budget places that put the tax burden in the wrong places. Ahem. STAR bonds, and ahem, the LLC loophole, which assists in making Johnson County the great welfare provider for the rest of the state. (Many of the folks benefitting from the LLC loophole are farmers in western Kansas, while the well-paid office drones in JC aren't privy to LLC privileges.)

There are reasonable people on both sides of the LLC debate. If the loophole forces further budget cuts -- there's still plenty of room to make up for the past 40 years of spending growth -- I won't shed many tears. However, few people will feel the pain of those cuts more acutely than legislators who could be forced to make cuts that would likely be controversial. That said, I would prefer that legislators create the fairest tax policy humanly possible, while making cuts at the same time. That probably means fixing the unintended consequences of the last tax package. 

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