Rep. Bill Otto deserves the support of district Republicans in the Aug. 3 primary.
His vote for the one-penny sales tax increase restored some of the money cut from school funding, which was critically important in Allen County and the vast majority of other school districts throughout the state.
The additional revenue also preserved the Medicaid budget and will keep the state budget in balance next year, if the current rate of economic growth continues.
As Rep. Otto reminds Kansans as he campaigns, Medicaid not only provides medical care for the poor, it also is the main source of in-come for the state’s nursing home and assisted living industries. The bulk of the residents in those facilities receive the care they need at the sunset of their lives only because of Medicaid funding. Without the additional sales tax revenue, it may have been necessary to deny nursing home care to some indigent Kansans.
It should not be necessary to point out that support for the public schools at the state level prevents tax increases at the district level, but that is, of course, the situation. Without the additional funding made possible by the sales tax increase, many districts, including those in Allen County, would have had to fire teachers or dumb down their schools in other ways or raise local taxes to keep their budgets intact.
Otto’s opponent, Bud Sifers, says he would have voted against the sales tax hike and questions the level of school funding by saying that student performance in Kansas has proceeded “on a level line, while the amount spent on education has risen at a 45-degree angle.”
Neither statement is true. The performance of Kansas students continues to improve as shown in the annual performance tests they take. The state’s students continue to score above the national average. And, as every citizen should know, school funding has dropped substantially over the past three years due to the recession and the reluctance of the Legislature to raise taxes to cover the shortfall. It is a gross exaggeration to claim school costs have risen “at a 45 degree angle,” as Sifers does.
Funding the public schools is only half the picture. Revenue from the sales tax increase also will make unnecessary further cuts in funding for community colleges, such as Allen County Community College in Iola, and the regents universities. As a former educator, Rep. Otto understands that a strong education system is the best investment a state can make in its future.
This newspaper has been critical of Rep. Otto in the past on some issues. But his support of the public schools has been consistent — and education makes up more than 63 percent of the state budget. That support, in contrast to his opponent’s stand on the issue, is reason enough to give Otto your vote on Aug. 3.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.
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