Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Topeka Capital Journal. April 29, 2022.

Editorial: Kansas Legislature pushed political power play instead of helping Kansans who are hurting

The Kansas Legislature could have axed the sales tax on food promptly. Read that again.

Instead, Republican leaders have chosen to draw it out incrementally — essentially sticking it to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a democrat up for re-election, who made axing the tax a priority for the session.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jason Tidd reports that HB 2106 — which Kelly has promised to sign — waits until after Election Day to start a gradual cut. The rate will drop from its current 6.5% sales tax to 4% on Jan. 1, then 2% a year later, then 0% at the start of 2025.

The 6.5% state tax rate is the second-highest in the country.

Democrats initially opposed the plan but “something is better than nothing,” said Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa.

“I guess crumbs are better than nothing,” said Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village. He said the Legislature “settled for a bunt when we could have hit a homerun.”

We understand this line of thinking from the Democrats, but it’s also important to note that more immediate tax relief was possible. Republican leaders chose not to pursue that path. We think they owe taxpayers — and voters — an explanation.

Tidd reports Republicans say axing the tax so quickly would be no different than former Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax experiment that devastated the state’s revenues.

“If you don’t learn from history, you tend to repeat it,” Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City.

But this isn’t Sam Brownback’s Kansas anymore and the state is in a very different financial situation. Furthermore, using a Brownback boogeyman excuse is not comparing like with like.

Fiscal reports show state coffers are brimming with surplus revenue. The state is currently projected to have a $3.1 billion budget surplus at the end of fiscal year 2023. Cutting the food sales tax would cost roughly $500 million a year.

We can afford to do this. It’s basic math. We should be doing it sooner.

Sales tax rules changes can occur at the start of a calendar quarter. So actually — the change could occur July 1 or Oct. 1, about a month before Election Day.

It’s a shame Republican leaders chose to attempt to score political points rather than create a win for everyone.

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Kansas City Star. May 3, 2022.

Editorial: Missouri already has an abortion ‘trigger’ ban. Kansas, your freedom is on the line

The Supreme Court’s apparent decision to reverse its landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion is a breathtaking mistake, wrong on the law, politics, history and civil rights.

For the first time in the nation’s history, at least five unelected judges seem prepared to rescind the fundamental right of women to control their own bodies. That’s the clear impact of a draft opinion leaked to Politico and published Monday evening.

Women and men who believe in freedom were justifiably outraged after reading the document. Its effect is unmistakable: It would allow states to prohibit all abortions, for whatever reason, at any time, without exceptions for a sick mother, or rape or incest, or any other reason.

It instantly renders women second-class American citizens, with fewer rights than men. It will not end abortions, just safe access to the procedure in some states.

That’s sinister enough. But there’s more: In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito says Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong” because it recognized a right not in the Constitution, or part of the country’s “deeply rooted” history.

That phrase should horrify everyone. It invites states to revoke laws allowing interracial marriage, or gay relationships, or birth control, or any of a number of individual liberties long guaranteed by our founding documents but now subject to the whims of a man in a black robe.

The imperfect arc of American history has always been to expand fundamental rights and freedom. Until now.

We don’t know who leaked the draft opinion, or why. We do know it’s possible the final opinion will be less dictatorial than the one published Monday. At the same time, it’s possible — perhaps likely — that the five judges who want to discard Roe will feel compelled to do so precisely because the leak of the draft makes any other choice difficult.

If the opinion stands, American who cherish liberty must stand up. In Missouri, that means supporting the campaigns of legislators who embrace access to safe, legal reproductive health services in the state.

Sadly, Missouri has already passed a so-called “trigger” law that would outlaw almost all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The effort to guarantee women’s rights in the state will be long and difficult.

The issue extends beyond state legislative races, however. Monday, The Washington Post revealed Republican plans to introduce a national law banning most abortions — an effort that must be resisted by members of Congress and the White House.

Abortion rights must now be at the top of every voter’s agenda. Candidate equivocation will not be acceptable: Do you believe in rights and equality for women, or not? We can vote accordingly.

In Kansas, direct action is more immediately possible. The state’s Supreme Court has said access to abortion is a right guaranteed by the state Constitution. In August, voters will be asked to overturn that decision.

The answer must be a resounding no. Every woman who believes in autonomy — for herself, her daughters and granddaughters, her neighbors and friends — must turn out, and cast a no vote on the amendment. Men, too.

Kansans can send a clear message to the nation: Here, rights matter. We vote no.

It’s tragic that we must vote to protect individual freedom. The great experiment of American self-government is built on the idea of inalienable individual rights that are not based on the passions of the moment. It’s this idea that Alito and his friends wish to cancel.

And to what end? In a few years, when the pendulum swings, new justices will overrule Alito, just as he overruled Harry Blackmun, who wrote Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court, once seen as a guarantor of liberty, will be viewed as just another partisan disaster — and respect for the rule of law will further crumble.

Perhaps that’s the point. The conservative project is increasingly clear: Ban abortion and other civil liberties, suppress the vote, end public education and equal protection of the laws. Then riot if you don’t get your way.

The Alito draft is yet another step on the road to theocracy. It’s deeply regrettable and tragic, and should be resisted by every American who loves pluralism — and freedom.

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