It can be hard to meet those with whom you disagree face to face. It is much harder to practice your constitutional right to free speech when sitting on stage with someone, bellied up to the bar, or at a local coffee shop than it is while sitting at your keyboard. But, this sort of public discussion can often be the most illuminating and sleuth out misleading claims.
This was certainly the case at a recent public discussion between State Senator Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) and KPI president Dave Trabert exposed a number of misleading claims on state tax and budget issues. The discussion was hosted by KCUR Radio and moderated by Stephen Koranda in Lawrence on January 26; audio from the event provided by KCUR is embedded below.
Senator Kelly said the state budget had been cut nine times since tax relief was passed in 2012, and while some minor adjustments have been made, total General Fund spending still increased. In fact, the current year’s budget of $6.253 billion is $155 million higher than FY 2012 actual spending and the real increase is even greater; some General Fund spending was moved to the All Funds budget over the period.
That old myth about school funding only appearing to have increased because of “sleight of hand accounting gimmicks” was easily debunked. KPI has email confirmation from the Kansas Department of Education acknowledging that no accounting changes have affected total reported funding for more than ten years. Further, school funding set another record last year without counting any KPERS retirement funding.
The public is far better served when speakers with differing viewpoints are on the same stage but most often, those who prefer higher taxes, more spending, and generally think they can run your life better than you can refuse to engage where they can be held publicly accountable. Case in point, KNEA teacher union lobbyist Mark Desetti live-tweeted several false claims during the discussion attributable to Dave Trabert, but when asked if he’d agree to have the discussion in public, Desetti refused. At least Senator Kelly had the courage to defend her positions in public.