November 17, 2015

Extreme-right Republicans have been steadfast in making life more difficult for struggling Kansans.

Try as they might to defend policies that reduce assistance for people in need, ultraconservatives running the Kansas Statehouse are indeed deliberately punishing the most vulnerable in our midst.

And when they target children, as has happened once again, it’s all the more disgraceful.

Yet another example came recently with funding hijacked from worthwhile initiatives in place to help at-risk children.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s income-tax cuts for wealthier Kansans have saddled the state with repeated and severe budget gaps — the most recent to the tune of $124 million.

In what’s sounding like a broken record, a governor desperate to protect his income-tax cuts again saw fit to shortchange vital state services to address ongoing, self-inflicted budget shortfalls — a mess that could be mended by revising his reckless tax policy.

But he won’t budge on that count, unfortunately. Instead, Brownback recently grabbed another $50 million from a state transportation fund that’s been repeatedly raided; slashed $25 million from Medicaid that could have been used to help disabled Kansans, and reduce the waiting list by about 25 percent; and has more cuts pending in other areas.

He also swept $9 million from the Kansas Children’s Initiative Fund, which is earmarked for early childhood programs designed to help many at-risk youngsters in poorer families.

Brownback’s camp quickly tried to brush off the run on childhood initiatives as just an “accounting transfer” that wouldn’t affect program grants.

That’s false, of course, as the move would reduce dollars available by about $1.3 million over the next 18 months.

Head Start and other high quality, early childhood programs give Kansas’ younger, more vulnerable children a solid foundation for health and learning. They’re a wise and necessary investment in the state’s future.

Yet Brownback, who tried to tout healthy families as the way to economic prosperity, actually saw childhood poverty worsen on his watch.

Kansas does need thoughtful, proven policies designed to help families escape the vicious cycle of poverty. The governor’s shortsighted approach, however, only will exact a more costly toll down the line.

Read more from The Garden City Telegram.