The Wichita Eagle, Kansas Policy Institute, and the Koch Brothers

The editorial board of the Wichita Eagle takes the Kansas Policy Institute to task for its recent work in addressing school funding. But what I find most interesting are the public comments, including this theme: Liar, liar, pants on fire! You’re bought by OIL MONEY!

Now, I don’t have a firm grasp on the institute’s funding, though I presume that its trustees are part of the donor base. (Are any of them named “Koch?”)  I’m always amused when the “bought and paid for” line comes out. Seriously. A statement about X, Y, or Z is true or it is false, regardless of who says it, or even why. Certainly, you might want to keep the question “who benefits” in mind, but it’s not the determinant factor in whether a statement is true or not.

I also see that someone says “you’re making up those numbers!” Actually, no. They come from the Kansas State Department of Education. Would you like to accuse them of fabricating numbers? Go ahead. Now, I know the line “Figures lie and liars figure,” but again, look at the evidence and come to a conclusion rather than shouting.

Now, as to the Eagle, it says that KPI took out an ad criticizing the governor for increasing spending by $380 million in his budget. The Eagle further says that $80 million of that is “for a scheduled payment increase to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and the state’s debt-service payments (this year the state only paid the interest on its debts, not the principal).” KPERS certainly needs the money; it’s been underfunded for a while, and the state should fund what it has promised. But there are three ways of dealing with a gap between promised outlays and the assets of the fund:

1. Raise taxes

2. Cut spending elsewhere

3. Lower promises made to new employees and reduce future increases in payouts.

Which option do you think the Eagle board favors?

The Eagle mentions also that $300 million of the increase is actually meant to cover the hole left by the fact that last year’s $300 million in bonus money from the federal “stimulus” law won’t be there. Well, yes, that money won’t be there. But what sorts of budget cuts did it forestall last time out? Given the way government budgeting typically works, I suspect that the bonus money only set Kansas up for steeper cuts once it ran out.

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