By Sandra Powell
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that .all men are created equal’…… that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Written over 150 years ago, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still holds truths today for all of us as Kansas citizens. Let us take some time to reflect on what has happened and then how to work toward a better government. For the past six years a conservative majority party has installed numerous policies and laws in our state which have not been instrumental. Consider, for example, the 2012 tax revisions which exempted over 330,000 Kansans from having to pay income tax, with the claim it would draw new businesses to Kansas or encourage existing entrepreneurs to re-invest and expand their businesses. It has not happened. State management of the Medicaid program, KanCare, has only resulted in the delay or inability of thousands of senior and disabled Kansans who are in need of medical services to get off the waiting lists. Under federal oversight this would not have happened. Voter rights were trampled on and met many lawsuits in federal court. Osawatomie State Hospital is losing $1 million dollars monthly because it has lost Medicare certification and faces staffing, equipment, and numerous other shortfalls. Total health care clinics in smaller towns have been closed down, due to lack of funding and citizens must travel to the larger medical facilities in larger cities which may be hundreds of miles away.
What does this mean for us, my fellow Democrats? We are the party of the people, who listen to our constituents, and bring change for the better to our home fronts. A grassroots level approach is the answer.
With the August 2016 elections a groundswell began. Numerous conservatives were either unseated or chose not to run for re-election. In their places came freshmen legislators who were not afraid to answer the challenge. Moderate Republicans and Democrats alike share a common bond in that they want to work for the betterment of their state and can reach across the aisle to make this happen. Consider the override of the Governor’s veto on Senate Bill 30 which took the tax exemptions off the books. In a tight vote the legislators in both the House and Senate came together to stop this disastrous decision of the executive branch.
In spring 2017 came a local example of the citizenry standing together. St. Francis Regional; Medical Center in Topeka was on the verge of closing as its parent company, SCL of Denver, said it would close the hospital by early summer and donate its equipment to a should a prospective buyer come forth (In the words of SCL Health, the hospital had lost up to $10 million annually because of the failure of Medicaid expansion in Kansas.) Had federal Medicaid dollars been available to this hospital and other similar institutions, perhaps the worst of the crisis could have been avoided. Local citizens came together for a candlelight march on the St. Francis campus to show citizen support for the 100-year plus institution. A competitive hospital market is needed in Topeka to support the city and those surrounding communities which must send their citizens to our Capitol City for lack of an adequate medical service in their own backyards. The grassroots have spoken. Three bidders came forth and finally the purchase was made by the University of Kansas Health Systems and its private partner Ardent Health Services. Largely because of this headlining situation, legislative attention was more strongly turned to the issue of Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Federal assistance is needed in such crisis situations to help keep these medical institutions solvent.
Election time is coming again and crucial issues continue to face us. The Kansas Department of Transportation has been used as a virtual credit card for six years as the current administration has siphoned off millions of dollars for the State General Fund which should have gone into road repair. State employees have increased contributions to make to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund and the state has not met its contractual obligations of match funds. Instead major bond issues have been issued with payout in the next five to 20 years. School district funding remains a major issue to be tackled. The Kansas Supreme Court must now review the formula passed by the 2017 Legislature and determine if it adequately meets the needs of educating our future generations of Kansans.
As we all know, there are problems ahead as the state faces innumerable fiscal problem deficit over the next several years. Yet, the 2017 Legislature brought with it a spark of hope as it worked on major tax policies, education funding, and countless issues that faced our communities. Election time for 2018 is coming. Candidates are announcing their eligibility to run for office. My fellow Democrats, I am sure you are asking, what does the Gettysburg Address have to do with all this?
Gettysburg points out that the people are the crux of government. It all begins at the grassroots. What our ancestors fought for still exists today. This means reaching across the aisles in the state legislature for partisan cooperation. At our grassroots neighborhoods, it means working with our neighbors to elect persons who will represent our common interests and bring Kansas back to its glory days. Those who have suffered during the past six years can hopefully find relief at the end of a long tunnel. Yes, a government which provides oversight to all of its branches and is represented by those who truly care about the local constituencies is the only answer. Please take these words into consideration when considering your next vote and hopefully, becoming active in supporting our party of the people, the Democratic Party.
Introduction: Sandra Powell holds a bachelor of business administration (BBA), management, degree from Washburn University and a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) from the University of Kansas. She also holds the professional designation of Certified Public Manager. Sandra was employed by the State of Kansas in various departments as both a research and management analyst. In a retirement of four years, she remains an active community volunteer. Sandra is a strong supportive Democrat and has served as a precinct committee woman, legislative analyst, and has worked many campaigns and volunteers at the county headquarters.