A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
"I think the best possible social program is a job." 
~ Ronald Reagan
The Facts of the Matter will be a feature in The Truth Report each week, highlighting important information, some of which is not always reported or emphasized in the mainstream press:
  • Good News – More People Are Working – and Earning More Money.  According to the Department for Children and Families, since 2011, over 45,040 new employments have been reported by TANF individuals. Those who left public assistance saw their earnings more than double, and incomes continue to climb each year for those removed, eventually more than tripling – increasing by 247 percent within four years. Over that same period, these families saw an estimated $48 million increase in wages.

  • High Utility Rates Area Problem in Kansas. In the last decade, residential utility rates from both Westar and KCP&L have increased dramatically. Westar’s rates increased 30% since 2012 and 58% since 2007. For KCP&L, the increase has been 36% since 2012 and 64% since 2007. Including all sectors (residential, commercial, and industrial), Kansas electricity prices are the highest in the region. 

  • The Consequences of Roe vs. Wade. Monday marks the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Since the landmark decision, there have been over 59 million abortions, according to the National Right to Life Committee. The good news is that the number of annual abortions has dropped significantly over the last few years.
News & Views is a weekly collection of relevant news items and editorials regarding what's going on in Topeka and around the State of Kansas.
Editorial: A Fair Share of the Pie for All Kansans

A group of contractors wrote an editorial (linked above) in the Gardner Edge. Here is an excerpt:

Spending time with family and friends over the holidays is a time honored Kansas tradition. It’s a chance to come together, celebrate the season and share great food. Homemade pie is always a favorite at our houses. But, when one member of the family continually takes more than his fair share of the pie, forcing others to go without, even the most patient family members have to speak up.

We’ve seen the same thing happen over and over again in Topeka. For decades, lawyers have entangled our school districts in lawsuit after lawsuit seeking more funding. Each time, taxpayers pay more, yet wind up with less for other essential priorities. Under the latest ruling, school districts are at the front of the line again, seeking 60 percent of state taxpayers’ pie while other priorities for our families – like job training, roads, healthcare and foster care – continue to lose.
Transparency Center: Follow the Kansas Legislature
Both the House and Senate have taken historic steps towards the promotion of open government. For the first time, you can view video streaming of both chambers via the Kansas Legislature YouTube page. In addition, many committees are now audio streamed. Finally, the Kansas Legislature website remains a great resource. Here are the relevant links:

YouTube Streaming:

Lawton Nuss Delivers State of the Judiciary Address, Cites Pro-Life Quote from Reagan?
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss delivered the State of the Judiciary Address, which you can view by clicking here. You can read a transcript in Wednesday’s House Journal by clicking here

During his address, Justice Nuss pressed the legislature for more funding for salaries throughout the Judicial Branch. Some of his specifics included a request to increase salaries for judges themselves. According to Nuss, Kansas judge salaries ranked 24 th among states 2008 but has dropped to 45 th. The requested increases would make Kansas 27 th.

Some other facts are relevant in this debate. Currently, judges in Kansas make at least $120,000. When there are judicial vacancies, there is not a shortage of qualified applicants, which would be a leading indicator that salaries were too low. Finally, if there was to be an increase to a certain target, it would fiscally prudent to phase that increase in over several years.

It is also important to remember that while quite a few in the legislature would be open to providing pay increases to the lower-salaried employees in the Judicial branch, it is difficult to do so when the Kansas Legislature is also being told to spend $600 million annually more on K-12 education.

The Kansas Supreme Court, a product of the least-democratic method of judicial selection in the country, is not just currently in the news due to its perpetual decision to insert itself into school funding debates in Gannon, but also because of its impending ruling in the dismemberment abortion ban, originally passed in 2015. 

The latter part is noteworthy given that in his address, Justice Nuss actually quoted Ronald Reagan…twice. Here is the relevant portion of the speech from Justice Nuss:

“Someone once said: 

"I . . . believe that the Federal Government has an obligation to enforce the constitutional rights of even the least individual among us, wherever he may be, if those rights are being denied, and to do so at the point of bayonet if necessary."

Now, what wild eyed, left-leaning Hollywood celebrity said that? It was a Hollywood actor all right: named Ronald Reagan at his 1982 presidential news conference. And Reagan said it repeatedly during his presidency.

Perhaps you were surprised to hear President Reagan speak so passionately about government enforcing constitutional rights at the point of a bayonet. After all, he was a proud champion of reducing what he considered governmental "interference" in people's lives. But Reagan recognized a few things in life were essential. Because as governor of California he also had said,

"[A]t any level of government I have always subscribed to a belief that protecting the rights of even the least individual among us – is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing."

Fortunately, we rarely have to resort to bayonets. Instead, constitutional rights are enforced, and protected – for even the lowest person among us – in the Kansas court system as administered by our approximately 1600 employees and 260 judges spread across 105 counties.”

Contrary to what Justice Nuss may think or say, no member of the Kansas Truth Caucus is surprised that Ronald Reagan was passionate about defending the protecting the rights among the most innocent among us. Most precious among those rights is the right to life. 

Perhaps Justice Nuss did not realize the irony of his quote, given the dismemberment ban that is currently before his court.  
The 45 th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade will be marked on Monday. In Topeka, many are looking forward to participating in the annual “Rally for Life” at the State Capitol on Monday – you can learn more about it – including a flier of the event -- by clicking here, which you can also view below.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March for Life in Washington - and President Donald Trump became the first President to address the rally live from the Rose Garden. He was introduced by Vice President Pence, who addressed the rally in person.

During the past seven years, Kansas has taken remarkable steps and has transitioned to become one of the most pro-life states in the country. Thanks to the efforts of a pro-life governor, pro-life legislature, and allies at Kansans for Life, Kansas is leading the way in protecting the innocent among us. Over the past six years, there have been 17,000 less abortions in Kansas.

That historic progress is now under threat by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Kansas Truth Caucus previously expressed its view on the case before the court regarding the dismemberment ban, which has been in the Kansas Court system for over 2 ½ years. More on the law and the case can be found via The Federalist here and via Kansans for Life here.

Given the Court’s tackling of education funding, it’s also noteworthy that this upcoming week is also School Choice Week in Kansas. This will include a rally on Wednesday at the State Capitol in Topeka, where over 200 are expected to attend.

Many students across the country, including here in Kansas, are trapped in schools where they are underperforming. The parents of these children deserve a right to other options, whether that is another public school, private or parochial schools, or homeschooling. A child-focused, rather than system-focused, model of education would foremost care that the child receives a first-class education that prepares them for life, not which system produced it.

The Kansas Legislature enacted the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship program in 2014. According to EdChoice, there are 292 students currently enrolled in the program, but up to 7% of Kansas students are eligible. You can learn more about the program by clicking here

As “school finance” debates persist this session and in the future, members of the Kansas Truth Caucus will continue to fight to open up more opportunities for all Kansas kids.
Every week, the Truth Report will have a “Wallet Watch”, where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
Last week, it was the proposal for $600 million in additional funding for K-12 education. This week, it was Chief Justice Lawton Nuss asking for a sharp increase in Judicial Branch salaries. With these requests to increase the Kansas budget, taxpayers should be asking the question, “Where will they find the money?” 

Too often, as we learned just last year, the answer has been their own pocketbook. The Kansas Truth Caucus is proud to fight for the taxpayer.
Kansans Energy Bills May Be Dropping Soon...
Because of Tax Cuts!
One way the pocketbook of every Kansan, especially lower and middle income, is impacted is via high utility bills. According to the Kansas Industrial Consumers Group, in the last decade, residential utility rates from both Westar and KCP&L have increased dramatically. Westar’s rates increased 30% since 2012 and 58% since 2007. For KCP&L, the increase has been 36% since 2012 and 64% since 2007. Including all sectors (residential, commercial, and industrial), Kansas electricity prices are the highest in the region .

The good news is this week that in the wake of the Trump tax cuts enacted late last year, Westar announced it would be submitting an application for rate cuts to the Kansas Corporation Commission. With the potential merger of Westar and KCP&L , there is hope that this request could potentially benefit even more Kansans.

The impact of the tax cuts also continues to be felt, with the Westar announcement the latest in a series of stories of companies making decision to pass tax cuts savings on to customers and/or employees.  This demonstrates tax reductions on corporations (from 35% to 21% under the new law) impact everyone, freeing up money that was spent on government to be spent on boosting our economy.

This stands in stark contrast to last year’s massive retroactive tax increase enacted by the Kansas Legislature. While the downturns in the oil, aviation, and agricultural industries blunted the impact of the tax cuts enacted in Kansas on our economy, the Kansas Legislature took the wrong approach in removing money from the economy and giving it to government. 

A better approach would be to reduce spending and keep as much money flowing into the private sector as possible, so when the economy did start growing, as it is now, Kansas businesses and families would be poised to flourish.
From Welfare to Work:
Kansans TANF Facts & Statistics
Since 2011, the Kansas Legislature enacted reforms to the Kansas system of public assistance via the HOPE Act. The goal of these reforms was to help Kansans find employment, thus aiding their families and breaking the cycle of poverty. These reforms included lowered time limits for many to be on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds and how a recipient can spend such funds.

It is not unexpected that many have criticized these reforms, and cited studies to suggest they are not working or are tied to the number of children in foster care. However, the facts suggest a different story, according to information released by the Kansas Department of Children and Families.

It’s important to remember that cash assistance welfare programs began being redesigned via welfare reform that was adopted by the Republican Congress in 1996 and eventually signed into law by President Clinton. The basic principle of that reform is that individuals could no longer spend a life on welfare, but would be expected to work.

As part of that, Kansas TANF was eventually capped at 24 months, with the possibility of a 12-month extension. However, many caregivers receiving assistance are exempt from time limits and work requirements, such as grandparents who are caring for children. 

As cited in the “Facts of the Matter”, over 45,040 new employments have been reported by TANF individuals since 2011. Kansas families who left public assistance saw their earnings more than double – earning $20 million more than when they were on welfare. Those incomes continued to increase every year after – increasing by 247 percent within four years. These jobs extended over a range of industries – 600 in total. 

Finally, national data provided by KidsCount illustrates that there is no correlation between TANF time limits and the number of children in foster care. 

Remember, the ultimate measure of success for any public assistance program is not the number of people on the program, but the number of people leaving the program and entering the work force.