Anyone recognize that big red sign?

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We don’t know the maximum fine for a motorist
failing to yield, but area law enforcement could
raise more than a small fortune nicking scofflaws
at I-135 and I-70 in Salina. The cloverleaf presents
a constant threat as motorists burst full speed onto
the highways. East and westbound exits merge,
conflicting with north and southbound entrances;
the trouble is obvious and well-forewarned by
large Yield signs posted on the ramps. They are
rarely, if ever, obeyed.
Our estimate, based on decades’ traveling this
interchange, is that fewer than one in ten motorists
(if that many) actually yield to oncoming traffic at
any of the entrance-exits.
A week ago, another near-miss: Westbound on
I-70, we prepare to exit for southbound I-135;
we watch to see whether, up on 135, any traffic
is making the big turn down the exit ramp for
westbound I-70 because this is also our exit for
southbound 135. That ramp is posted with a large
red YIELD sign.
We see trouble forming. A semi, followed by a
large pickup, and an SUV, are headed nose to tail
down the ramp as we approach our exit, our turn
signal flashing. The semi blasts full-throttle onto
the freerway just ahead of us. We brake. The thug
driving the pickup doesn’t care; We brake again.
Thug belches on ahead, swerving onto I-70 and
nearly clipping our right front fender. The SUV,
seeing we are running out of room to exit, slows,
honks at us, brakes again. We head up the ramp,
catching our breath. We slow and yield to a southbound
tractor-trailer rig barreling down the highway.
A man in the car behind us lays on the horn.
We had stopped to yield for a semi. How silly.
***
Brownback’s plan at work:
Kansas with no government
An alarming report from the Kansas Department
of Revenue is that tax collections for the year have
fallen $685 million compared with this time a year
ago – a 12 percent decline with one month remaining
in the fiscal year. In May alone, returns were
down $217 million.
At this rate, and with the governor’s fading prediction
that the budget will show an $81 million
surplus, the state is in fact headed for a monumental
budget deficit. The revenue decline is a result
of massive tax cuts enacted a year ago. When
revenues dropped $92 million in April, Moody’s
iunvestment Service dropped the state’s bond rating
and criticized the state’s “sluggish” economic
recovery.
The current reports are in glaring contrast to the
rosy budget forecasts during the recent legislative
session. Lawmakers, more plainly, were lying about
the prospects in hopes that they could squeeze out
a budget, slip away from the Capitol, and survive
the coming elections while the citizenry, awash in
a confusion of numbers and sleight-of-hand politics,
stayed none the wiser. The rubes who elected
these charlatans would elect them again, red ink
and all. (We’re a red state, ain’t we?)
About the next budget: The state will face a deficit
of perhaps $200 million to $400 million. The
full effect of a state with no income tax puts the
ultimate, estimated shortfall into the billions.
The Kansas Constitution says the state cannot
spend money it doesn’t have. The governor’s
plan leaves our compliant, no-tax legislature little
choice but to begin catastrophic budget cuts. No
longer a nip here and tuck there. To counter deficits
this large, whole agencies go on the block.
We already have some clues to the future.
Lawmakers, at the governor’s direction, have
moved the Department of Agriculture out of Topeka
to Manhattan, where Kansas State University will
at some point be told to pick up that agency’s
costs.
There’s more:
– The Kansas Turnpike Authority has been abolished,
absorbed by the highway department, where
funds are routinely raided to plug budget holes left
by income tax cuts. Future highway maintenance
and improvement costs will be assigned gradually
to cities and counties.
– The state courts’ budget has been slashed
enough that county court houses may be closed for
long periods, due to budget reductions in Topeka.
– The Department of Social and Rehabilitation
Services has stopped funding nearly a dozen local
offices; the State Insurance Department, entirely
fee-funded, was drained of $20 million last year,
again to fill holes left by declines in income tax
collections.
– There are plans for the sale of four state office
buildings in Topeka and the demolition of one of
them. Proceeds would buy down public employee
retirement obligations, pay a portion of added
school finance claims, and place about 20 percent
in a “special administration department fund,”
whatever that is. The cover story, already unraveling,
is that employees in these four buildings
would be scattered among other facilities, or left in
place if the state would then lease back the buildings
it had just sold. Budget cuts. Remember?
– The state’s Medicaid program, health care for
the poor, has been replaced by a private scheme
that sluices public funds to three private companies
that have a fondness for making generous
campaign contributions.
– As we reported in April, the dismantling of
our system of local public education began this
year with school finance legislation, sold as a $130
million funding increase for poor school districts.
In fact, it’s a nightmare composite of faintly related
topics that conjure up voodoo revenues, combat
invisible threats, and stuff a constitutional time
bomb back in the dust bin for a later day. Phony,
inflated numbers for base state aid per pupil allow
districts to increase local property taxes, replacing
some of the money previously received from
state shared revenues. Due process for teachers
has been removed; teacher license and certification
essentially goes away, and companies that
donate to private school scholarship funds get tax
credits with a statewide $10 million cap annually;
new, alternative schools are encouraged with 20
percent of the state’s school districts eligible for
“innovative” district classification, excepting them
from most regulations. Question: What, any more,
makes a school?
– The Legislature this year passed a bill to put
Kansas in charge of federal health care programs
in Kansas, including Medicare. The legislation
allows Kansas to join a multi-state compact that
would transfer health care decision-making and
responsibility from the federal Medicare system
to member states. Kansas would create its own
health care system, using Medicare funds collected
in Kansas. Or, it could use the Medicare funds for
something else. Tax cuts. Remember?
This scenario points to an overall plan to dismantle
much of state government as we know
it. A legislature, lying about looming deficits,
is reelected along with the governor, and they
then begin the real business of eliminating or defunding
entire agencies, all in the name of creating
another state with no income tax.
They may believe in a state without taxes, but
they intend to create a state, in some form, without
a government. The job has already begun.
***
Big government
saves us again
As crews on Memorial Day continued to fight a
(man-made) wildfire in a northern Arizona’s Oak
Creek Canyon, a friend living nearby in Flagstaff
e-mailed us:
“(About) the values of ‘big government.’. There
is a fire burning outside Flagstaff at the moment
with some 1,200 firefighters from all over the
country fighting to keep it from entering Flagstaff
and Sedona. That effort is a manifestation of ‘big
government.’ I don’t hear any of our local right
winger anti-government nabobs advocating ‘Burn
Baby Burn.’ And I am sure they will be begging
for more government assistance after the fire damage
is known.”
– JOHN MARSHALL

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