I’d like to kick off this initial newsletter by simply saying what a tremendous honor it is to represent the 32nd District in the Kansas Senate. I was sworn in on January 9th, and immediately got to work. We have profound challenges before us, and I appreciate the trust the people have placed in me to be their voice as we find solutions.
My committees this session cover the gamut of subject matter we are tackling: Education; Ways and Means; Commerce; and Assessment & Taxation. These committees provide me a front row seat into the solutions we are looking at.
Each legislative session is usually limited to 90 days. To help illustrate the difficulty of what we face, it is highly likely we will go well beyond that. The reason for that is that in order to pass any legislation, you need 21 (out of 40) votes in the Senate, 63 (out of 125) in the House, plus the signature of the governor. With so many competing factions in Topeka, that is not an easy thing to achieve. That will likely require us to meet beyond the 90 days.
The most significant issue before us is balancing the budget, as required by the Kansas Constitution. However, we face a $350 million deficit to make up, and there are large differences of opinions on how to get there. Some of my colleagues want massive tax increases across the board, including on small businesses, gasoline, and individuals; some want to focus mostly on spending decreases; others fall somewhere in between.
I pledge to keep an open mind regarding all proposals, including those which include revenue enhancement. I am generally quite cautious about anything that would stifle our economy or the creation of jobs via taxing small business owners, and am certainly against any tax increase that would be regressive in nature. So, we owe it to ourselves to think carefully through any proposal before us. We must also avoid the temptation to vote for something we know is wrong, simply so we can go home. You elected us to solve problems the right way, not because of the calendar.
The truth is, our economy is growing, jobs are being created, and unemployment is low. We must not risk all that collapsing. We also owe it to our constituents to tell the story about what is working and why, even if the mantra of our opposition seems deafening at times. Through my newsletters, I hope to do that for you.
I do want to mention a bill, SB 75, of local importance, and that’s involving Cowley County Community College and their new facility in Wellington, funded by a ½ cent sales tax. Due to this new facility, it is important to expand the Board of Trustees by one member, with that new member coming from Sumner County. Such a change requires a legislative action, and I have co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Ed Trimmer to do just that.
In closing, if you’re up in Topeka, feel free to stop by my office (541-E in the State Capitol) or to e-mail me at Larry.Alley@senate.ks.gov. If you e-mail me, let me know if you’d like to receive the long version of my newsletters!