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Humm: Brownback plans to cut vital services

By Sarah Humm
On January 17, 2011

The success of Republican Sam Brownback in the Kansas Governor's race in November means hard cuts to vital aspects of services to citizens and communities.

While being fiscally conservative in this economy isn't always a bad thing, eliminating important services is.

According to articles written by the Associated Press, Gov. Brownback's budget proposal projects that the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka will close in 2014. KNI provides services to members of the community with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services website in 2009, 88 percent of KNI's consumers were categorized as having a profound intellectual disability with 82 percent being unable to speak (most others having limited speech.) 67 percent were unable to walk, many requiring support to do so. 33 percent required "specialized behavioral support service," and 99 percent have lived at KNI for more than 10 years. Most also require substantial or total assistance with basic life skills.

Considering the above statistics, why would it be an intelligent idea to close a service that is highly necessary? Not only will the closing of this facility result in damage to the essential resources of some of Kansas's most vulnerable citizens, it will also mean lost jobs for Kansans. The Kansans using KNI's services obviously need specialized care that is hard to find. The functionality of this facility should be seen as a priority.

Those using KNI are a small portion of Kansas, but hits to art programs will affect the majority of the population in different ways.

In all schools subjects like math, science and English are standard. But the place where students get to express who they are and show personality is within the arts. Brownback's budget proposed to phase out the Kansas Arts Commission. Brownback proposed that the Arts Commission become a privately funded, nonprofit organization.

According to the Kansas Arts Commission website, their mission is to "provide opportunities for the people of Kansas to experience, celebrate and value the arts throughout their lives." The Arts Commission does this through state funding, funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and federal grants.

If the Arts Commission is phased out, these funding sources could go away. Schools, colleges, recreation programs, parks programs, arts and cultural organizations and libraries are some of the groups that receive grants through the Arts Commission.

Arts programs in schools have diminished over the past 20 years due to testing requirements, adding more to curricula and lack of funding. A further cut to arts programs will not only hurt children and adults who use the programs, it will also restrict creativity and personal growth.

With cuts to arts, it will not only hurt communities it will further the budget crunch to schools.

While education will account for 62 percent of the state budget in 2012, schools will still see cuts. The price per pupil in the K-12 education system will see a cut from the state. The schools will also see a decrease in funding since they will be losing federal stimulus funds. This loss of federal funds will not be made up on the state level. The schools will have to continue to make harsh cuts after an already brutal year in 2010.

Gov. Brownback's budget calls for many agencies to be eliminated from the state's control to be moved into different departments. Some of these agencies include: Kansas Human Rights Commission, State Conservation Commission, Kansas Parole Board, Health Policy Authority and others. The Brownback budget also includes a $200 million cut to the state highway program, eliminating 2,000 state jobs that are currently unfilled and cuts to other state programs.

Even though it is going to be an even tighter budget year and line items do need to be cut, the cuts proposed by Gov. Brownback will hurt schools, individuals that need the most care and Kansans that are already struggling.

The worst part about these cuts is that the cost differences will have to be made up at the city level, which could lead to even more local hardship. With a Republican majority in the statehouse, the chances likely that Brownback's initiatives will be passed on to his desk. However, those that see the importance of these programs can always make changes.

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