Commentary: Sebelius not specific in State speech

This editorial appeared in The Wichita Eagle.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius never talks money in her State of the State speeches, preferring to stick to generalities about overcoming adversity and working together. In good times, that big-picture approach works well enough. But the state is looking at possible $186 million and $1 billion shortfalls this fiscal year and next.

Sebelius should have better reflected that unsettling reality in Monday's State of the State speech, her seventh, and reassured Kansas businesses and families that she knows the way to what she called "the path toward better days."

Instead, she left lawmakers and Kansans guessing until today's rollout of her revised 2009 budget and 2010 blueprint, warning Monday only that she would recommend "significant reductions" for most agencies, facility closings, program eliminations and a hiring freeze.

She also chose not to get specific about parts of the budget that she views as essential, vaguely calling lawmakers to "commit to focusing on priorities: investing in public schools and public safety, continuing basic state services to our most vulnerable populations, putting Kansans back to work, and including all state agencies in a dialogue that results in shared solutions." Most surprisingly, she offered not a word on behalf of health care reform, which has been her top issue for several years.

Because ideas can flow even in cash-poor times, Sebelius highlighted the special working groups that are mapping out the future of economic development, transportation, energy and environment; another will work on how to make Kansas a leader in green technology jobs. She's right that all involved now must push for new transmission lines, so "Kansas can lead in the development of an interstate transmission system to move power to market."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.

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