- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Columbia Daily Tribune, June 14

The land of Oz. Dorothy can stay home

Dorothy need not leave Kansas in search for the land of Oz. Current state Republicans are trying to bring the magic right to her doorstep.

Led by the wizard behind the curtain, Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas lawmakers set off on a fanciful road to riches by ruthlessly slashing state taxes in hopes the economic development fairy would shower resultant benefits. Now, several seasons later, the magic is not working.

The state budget is $406 million in the hole. State lawmakers passed another mythical bill, this time keeping state workers on the “payroll” even though state authority to pay their salaries expired June 6 because the Legislature has failed to pass a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The emergency bill declared the workers “essential,” promising they would get paid if and when a state budget is passed on time.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson said “It’s probably not the best way to do it because, quite frankly it doesn’t authorize payment, but it does allow them to work.” What a deal. Kansas state workers get to stay on the job without payroll authorization.

Meanwhile, lawmakers fight over how to cover the budget gap, extending their session to the longest in history, costing more than $40,000 for each extra day. Unless the budget can be balanced, worker furloughs will begin. Like Missouri, Kansas must enact a balanced budget.

Kansas Republicans are determined to somehow run their state government at the same time they drain public coffers with draconian tax cuts. They bought Brownback’s argument the economy would flourish as new businesses flocked in - bribed by lowered taxes. It was a grand experiment designed in part to prove the Laffer Curve effect equating lower taxes with increasing public revenue.

A fair number of Missouri legislators have touted the Kansas experiment, hoping to do the same over here. Except for the presence of a Democrat in the governor’s mansion they might have given it a try.

In years past, Missouri Republicans were not so fiscally irresponsible. They always wanted to control spending, but never to the point of going behind the curtain reciting magical incantations.

The Kansas experiment should give other jurisdictions all around the country a worthwhile lesson. Dorothy, having learned the paucity of the ideas coming from behind the curtain, will want to come back home as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, let us pray some way is fashioned for Kansas employees to get paid. Brownback & Co. are giving state employee unions a boost. How ironic.

_____

St. Joseph News-Press, June 14

Listen to our ideas on vets

Despite the efforts of many, recent military veterans remain much more likely to be unemployed and to suffer from disabilities than those who came before them.

These facts hit home here in the Midland Empire, where active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel contribute to a substantial military presence that enjoys exceptional public support.

Would this same core group of boosters be proud to know that our returning active duty veterans from the post-9/11 era - those who have served since September 2001 - were unemployed at a rate of 7.2 percent in 2014? That rate was nearly 2 percentage points higher than the rate for all veterans.

Likewise, would area supporters of the military take pride in knowing 29 percent of post-9/11 veterans report a service-related disability requiring treatment? This compares to 16 percent for all veterans.

Analysts report veterans of the second Gulf War era were younger than many who served before them, and thus they return with less work experience in the private sector. Also, some areas, such as medicine, require retesting of veterans’ skills before they can take civilian employment - even if they just left a medical position with the military.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports it is far short of hitting its staffing targets at VA hospitals and clinics. It says it needs 26,000 new health care workers.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Republican from Tarkio, takes all of this in and offers commonsense ideas for helping our vets with both employment and medical care, including:

? Fast-tracking the hiring of former military health care workers for open VA positions.

? Granting the VA authority to quickly transfer the credentials of former Department of Defense medical personnel.

? Allowing advanced practice registered nurses to practice independently at facilities where long waits delay care for veterans.

Other ideas are welcomed - the more the better - as long as Congress recognizes it has an obligation to take these twin problems seriously and to press for immediate improvement.

_____

Southeast Missourian, June 15

Editorial: Cape County sales tax report shows upswing

The recent news that Cape Girardeau County’s sales tax revenue is up 7.75 percent is great news. The June general sales tax report, which provides this information, opens the door to a possible reduction in property taxes. This, of course, is even better news for residents.

Granted, the six-month figure is imprecise for prediction. In recent years, the early numbers did not hold up, which meant adjustments had to be made. Furthermore, as this is a reassessment year, so property taxes may rise as the value of property increases.

This means, of course, that it is too soon to celebrate a property tax reduction.

But it is not too soon to be hopeful.

As the Southeast Missourian recently reported, the midyear assessment does “indicate a likely decrease in the county’s property tax levy. Â. This would be the first decrease since 2012.” Concerning property tax increases, the assessment will be completed by month’s end, but Assessor Bob Adams has indicated that any increase in property taxes will not be substantial.

The current forecast, therefore, seems to call for measured optimism that taxpayers will experience some relief, which is always great news for our local economy. When people get to keep more of their own money, they tend to breathe a little easier. They also tend to spend even more than they have already been spending, often within their own communities — a win-win situation.

While the economic reports nationwide offer grim findings, locally people are spending more money. We hope to see the economic activity continue on the upswing.

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Kirksville Daily Express, June 14

The numbers are what the numbers are.

Sure, sometimes numbers can be twisted to suit the needs of someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes, but this is what it is.

The city of Kirksville currently gets $1.2 million from its Transportation Sales Tax. Those dollars are spent on concrete, asphalt, curbs, gutters, etc., to resurface and improve our streets.

But that money only goes so far. Kirksville Public Works Director Glenn Balliew said it would allow a complete makeover - assuming no structural damage existed underground - of five miles of city streets each year.

The city of Kirksville has roughly 130 miles of streets to maintain and surely some of them have structural issues that must be dealt with.

But let’s say they don’t, and for the sake of this exercise let’s assume costs are a constant (which they’re not - they’ll go up over time).

That means it would take 26 years to completely resurface all of the streets.

Oh, and not so fast on that one, because even if properly maintained the materials would only last 20 years, meaning that five miles done in Year 1 would need to be resurfaced in Year 20, before 30 miles of streets had a chance to be addressed.

As Balliew and his predecessors have pointed out, it’s a losing battle. The options are to accept it, find a way to increase revenues, or find ways to cut expenses and divert funds.

It’s a community issue and requires a community solution.

So, Kirksville, what should we do?

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