Stop us if you've heard this. 2016 will be a critical year for the future of Kansas. Every seat in the Kansas Legislature is up for a vote this year. That means every state senator, every state representative can (and should) be made accountable to their constituents. Every candidate, and that includes incumbents, should be held to account for their past votes and future plans.
Experts are predicting an enormous turnout for this year's primaries and general election. We intend to be there to help you plan ahead, to learn from you and your voting experience, and to urge you to do more than vote, to help others get educated, get involved, and vote in turn.
Here is a preview of what we can expect.
The elections will hinge on a few issues of particular note, though you should learn all you can about how your candidates feel about issues important to you. We expect the issue of the Kansas revenue crisis to be front and center. The Governor's tax cuts have been disastrous for our state's financial health, throwing public education, our roads and bridges, public health, the working poor and the most needy Kansans under the proverbial campaign bus. While the Governor is not up for election, the Kansas legislative leadership needs to be held accountable for their blind allegiance to his reckless plan.
We certainly expect the issue of public education financing to be critical to the legislative session and the elections, too. School districts are struggling under the limited resources provided by the block grant funding scheme this year, and next year's block grant funding will stay the same, dollar wise, with no planned increases for cost of living or inflation. The real kicker though, is that nobody can figure out how Kansas will pay even for that, given the consistent revenue shortfalls we continue to have. Added to that, we have the possible Kansas court action on existing education finance court cases, not to mention likely legislation to continue to limit public school success, with teacher disincentives like "merit pay" and attacks on college and career ready academic standards.
The third biggest issue will be the Governor's proposed, and much desired, plan to privatize Medicare services, as they did with Medicaid (which they call KanCare... yes, it is confusing). Medicaid is meant to serve those who are unable to help themselves, the poor, the disabled, those in need of a safety net. Medicare, on the other hand, is the system set in place to assist our seniors as they move into fixed incomes and retirement. Medicaid expansion is a topic that has been beaten up down and around the political hallways. The fundamentalist cons in the Kansas Statehouse rail against "Obamacare" and "handouts" and "lazy" families, putting in place ridiculous barriers to prevent the working poor from getting and using the assistance they need. Now imagine that level of neglect and dismissal applied to Medicare. You see why this will be an issue.
There will, of course, be more than just these three. We can expect the radical right in the Kansas Legislature to come up with more unimaginable legislation this session, as they have before with draconic reproductive health restrictions, attacks on the environment, civil rights, and the independent judicial system, and of course, further curtailing of voting rights meant to keep Kansans from the polls. What the lack in compassion and common sense they make up for in creativity.
Stay informed with us, and we will make sure you can make a difference this year.