During Watergate we were reminded, as though we needed to be, that no one is above the law. Not even the president.
Richard Nixon’s crimes had caught the attention of the House Judiciary Committee, and in short time Rep. Peter Rodino, the chairman, had obtained the articles of impeachment that sent President Nixon packing.
The law is stronger than the avarice, the arrogance of even the mighty.
But in Kansas, we don’t seem to think that way. On May 2, the Kansas House and Senate approved budget legislation, Senate Bill 249,that contains roughly $200 million more in expenditures than the state has in the bank.
The Kansas Constitution says the Legislature must not spend money it doesn’t have.
Article 11, Section 4 of that Constitution: “The legislature shall provide, at each regular session, for raising sufficient revenue to defray the current expenses of the state for two years.”
Nowhere does it say the Legislature can approve a budget out of sinc and leave the balancing to the governor.
No one is sure how much red ink has pooled among the columns of numbers, but the document is called “balanced” only because it leaves the balancing to Gov. Sam Brownback.
Legislators a year ago stepped away from their budget challenges and granted the governor unilateral authority to finish their work, with a “limit” of up to $100 million in budget reductions.
This year, again, lawmakers abandoned their task, passed an imbalanced budget to the governor with the assumption that he would cut at least another $82 million from current appropriations, and raid the state highway fund for another $115 million or $200 million or whatever raiding is needed.
The stickler here is that the law insists that the legislature ‒ not the governor ‒ is responsible for crafting a budget without deficit.
It seems a legislature that crafts a red ink budget is a legislature in violation of law. A responsible governor, one with a lick of sense, would have rejected such a document and called the legislature back into special session, demanding that it send him a budget that is balanced.
He didn’t, of course. We’re left with a budget sure to bleed again, a governor who insists all is well, a legislature that shirks responsibility if not the law, and a state left to spin in futility.
What will we do about it?
‒ JOHN MARSHALL