Lindsborg City Administrator Greg DuMars alerts us to yet another plot by legislators desperate to stem a hemorrhage of red ink in the state budget – again, by soaking local government.
In a memo from City Hall, DuMars said Senate Bill 403 demands that cities send to the state “any revenue for traffic infractions” greater than 10 percent of the city’s general fund, which this year is roughly $2.7 million.
The bill also demands that 70 percent of fines for infractions on state or federal highways be sent to the state.
Plans for this thievery coincide with news that state revenues for February fell another $57 million, leaving the state roughly $50 million in the red – for now. The (fiscal) year ends June 30.
The Legislature last year managed to arrange mirrors and blow enough smoke to resolve a $200 million shortfall through the kind of accounting that would amaze even a hedge fund broker. This included the sale of $400 million in phony highway bonds – phony, as we have noted, because the proceeds won’t build or repair even an inch of road; they are to cover operating deficits created by abolishing income taxes for businesses and wealthy individuals.
Bogus bonds may resolve some bleeding at the treasury, but not all of it.
The bill demanding state theft of local traffic fines reveals the blind desperation of legislators and their leader, Gov. Sam Brownback. Such heists are “an overreach,” says DuMars. The highways are patrolled by local law enforcement.
Infractions are processed through local prosecutors, court clerks, and judges. The state sends no funds for patrol or enforcement. More, the court’s software makes no distinction between a city street or a state or federal road, so there is no record for divvying the difference.
“This is nothing more than a money grab by the state legislature,”
ON HYPOCRITES AND TAX LIDS
On a related matter, legislators have embraced Senate Bill 316, a tax lid that suffocates local government finance.
It works this way: The governor and the legislature have ordered massive income tax cuts for business and wealthy individuals. The resulting decline in state revenue produced massive budget deficits. Lawmakers seek to resolve the red ink by raiding state agency budgets, especially the highway department, and by stealing revenue otherwise dedicated to cities, counties and school districts.
Denied a share of state funding, local government is pressured to increase spending and, ultimately, taxes. The daily obligations – street maintenance, public safety, emergency services, water, sewer and electric sectors, among others – will not go away. Nor will rising costs and obligations. The liability for any increase rests squarely with legislators, and they know it.
They suppose that a lid on local taxes puts a lid on the state’s trouble. It doesn’t.
It only puts unnecessary pressure on local government and exposes a glaring hypocrisy: lawmakers’ love for the government meddling they profess to hate.
– JOHN MARSHALL