I rushed off the set after the 6pm news Monday night, drove downtown, sprinted a block down Jackson Street into the Statehouse and hopped the stairs to the third floor. I squeezed between our Supreme Court Justices and brushed past the Senators lined up in the hall to get to the back row of the House chamber, where the media awaited the Governor's State of the State - along with the legislature and the assembled officials and interested parties.
What we all heard was a speech about working together and cooperating to come to some tough decisions. We heard how, in spite of a tough economic situation, we must not lose site of continuing to work toward the future in areas such as wind development and cancer research, both of which could also bring an economic boost to our state. What we did not hear was a detailed plan, laying out the specifics of how Kansas would first dig out of an expected $186 million shortfall by June 30th - $1 billion by next year. Should we have heard that?
Supporters say not necessarily. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley says he has seen some of the detailed plan that will be presented Tuesday morning and he believes the critics will be silenced when they see the Governor's proposals. He says they will see how she has put responsible thought into a dire situation. Besides, Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, says, the Governor painted a picture of the issues on which Kansans should focus.
But Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt says those things play well in the coffee shops, and may create a false hope that digging out of the budget mess will be painless for citizens who like popular programs - programs which may need to be cut. House Speaker Mike O'Neal says he appreciates the difficulty in crafting a budget, but it's not like this situation snuck up on us. While it may not seem like a big deal to wait a day to get the details, he says each day delayed in taking action is another day for the situation to grow more dim.
Do you think the Governor should have laid out the details Monday night? It would seem more people would be informed if she had. Many average citizens pay attention to the State of the State Address more than they do a budget committee briefing. We will be covering both. The devil's in the details, so in this budget climate, it would be worth to keep our eyes and ears open - let your lawmakers know how you feel and if you have a better suggestion for how to go about it.