This problem was underlined recently when I was helping Lynn’s mother get her handicapped license renewed. We got her a handicapped parking permit when she moved here to Manhattan three years ago. In reality, she has done so well she has almost never used it. But when renewal time came, we decided to re-up, and I was given that responsibility. My first move was to go out east of town to the State Motor Vehicle License facility. I made it no further than just inside the door to learn, with the room packed at mid-afternoon, that there was no way they could take care of me that day. I came back earlier the next day to another jammed room, but lucky for me, I thought when I signed in I should make sure I was in the right place. I wasn’t. I needed to go to the county treasurer’s office at the courthouse, which I did. Now, stick with me, for I’m about to get to the point.
At the state facility, it was obvious that one needed to allow plenty of time, hours not minutes, to get a driver's license new or renewed. This was not because of state employees not doing their job, but because with the budget cuts from the Brownback administration, they were short the staff they needed to serve the public in an efficient way that was respectful of Kansans’ valuable time. At the county courthouse, service was efficient and professional, and I was in and out in no time. It appears that our local officials fund services conservatively but adequate to do the job in an effective manner. And I know this is but a small, personal example of what happens to countless Kansans on a daily basis.
The key message here is that getting the state back to quality service will not be easy, and it will take time. It is not just restoring professionalism by repealing the Brownback spoils system, providing stability to the state employee retirement system, and opening up our state workforce to a wider and more diverse talent pool, but also finding resources to better staff needed functions. Examples include twelve hour shifts at state prisons, way under-staffed Children Services, and just recently, the Kansas Bureau Investigation reports they are 25 staff members below what they need to efficiently work with local officials investigating crimes. Unfortunately, for far-right conservatives, starving the government is a key strategy because the underfunded agency will perform at a lower level of quality, providing the evidence they'll use to make the case for privatization or more tightening of the budget.
Again, a reminder to all the folks who love tax cuts. Yes, it appears you are paying lower taxes because of decisions made, but are they really lower? You still pay taxes (and an increasing amount of fees for government services, which is also a form of taxation), and the declines in service do have an impact—in many cases, far greater than if the services would have been properly funded from the beginning. Whether that is addressing maintenance needs in a timely fashion or seeing that a vulnerable child is taken care of, not doing these things will ultimately cost much, much more.