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Kansas Senator Chris Steineger on Redesigning Kansas Government

On January 10, 2009, Kansas Senator Chris Steineger, Democrat from Kansas City, spoke to some 300 citizens at Americans For Prosperity‘s Defending the American Dream Summit in Wichita.

Steineger said that we should look at the current budget crisis in Kansas as an opportunity to redesign and reinvent Kansas government.

He asked “why do we have 105 counties?” The answer is that made Kansas counties small enough that everyone could have a one-day horseback ride — the mode of travel in 1861 when Kansas was formed — to the county seat. But today, we have cars, highways, telephones, cell phones, airplanes — a lot of things have changed. But we still have the same administrative structure.

Businesses change their products and management structure to adapt to the times, he said. Government should do the same thing.

Based on his 13 years in the Kansas Senate, Steineger said he’s learned that government doesn’t change itself a whole lot. “We don’t change the underlying design structure, the underlying management structure, the underlying administrative structure. We still have 105 counties, and that was based on horseback riding.”

Steineger told of how in his home county (Wyandotte County), the county and the city of Kansas City formed a unified government. It hasn’t saved much money, he said, but government has become much more effective. Consolidation can work.

He went on to say that we could also downsize the Kansas legislature. Kansas has 40 senators and 125 representatives. “We really don’t need that many people to make decisions in Topeka.”

Summing up, he said that we should consider reducing the number of counties and downsize the legislature. There is a window of opportunity of about two years to make these changes. After this, revenue will probably start flowing in again, and people won’t want to change.

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6 Comments

  1. John January 23, 2009

    I’m all for efficiency, but the size of the Kansas legislature is a pretty small problem.

    When it comes to the size of government and legislatures, bigger governments are more likely to come from full-time legislatures than large ones.

  2. Legend January 24, 2009

    The Senator makes some good points, but when it comes to changing government and making the hard decisions politicians usually cannot. Look at the first weeks of the Legislature. No progress has made in solving the state budget shortfall. The House hasn’t done anything and the Senate is creeping along. Most politicians are just talk. Also, if the Legislature is serious about reducing the size of government they have the chance to eliminate Kansas Inc., and KTEC. We’ll see what happens.

  3. Todd January 24, 2009

    Is this initiative small, in terms of our nation’s bureaucracy problem? Yes, but it is certainly not small in terms of the annual budgets of the individual citizens of the most sparsely populated counties in Kansas.

    I was just watching a dispute between two neighboring planning commissions on television. The entire time, I couldn’t help but think of all the wasted resources and overspent bureaucracy. These resources would be put to much better use if the commissions merged.

    I think the same can apply to government at the county level in a meaningful way.

  4. Priscilla Rivers February 6, 2009

    Gov. Bob Docking started a study on county consolidation in the late 1960s. Have you archived any of his findings? I was on a committee in Thomas County for a time. There must be some info on this somewhere.

  5. Jeff March 11, 2009

    I find it hard to believe this is even being considered. People should be sounding the alarm! If you think you don’t have representation now wait until this thing passes. He said there is a small window of opportunity.” What is that supposed to mean? Instead of balancing the budget now lets spend a bunch of money changing everything to save money. Where does the Democratic party come up with this stuff? Let’s just make it easier for the Democratic party to usher in all their entitlement programs. The number of Representatives would be cut by over 70%! There is strength in numbers to prevent one party or another from taking control. We need more creative minds to resolve issues that are not consumed by power not just a few puppets. Wyandotte County is one of the worst counties in the state for harboring illegal aliens, crime is exploding, roads are poor, entitlement dependent citizens flock to this county agencies for hand outs every day and then walk across the street to the Casino and blow what little money they have in their pockets. County seats are about a 30 minute drive or up to an hour depending on traffic. Why would you vote for increasing that to 2-3 hours to visit the commission unless you were unemployed with nothing else to do except drive all day to have your case heard? Do you honestly think the commission is going to allow any decision making power at the lower levels? If you believe that you obviously don’t know anyone that has ever worked for the local government. Wake up America! You need to turn off the TV and think this stuff through based on facts and not what the Liberal media wants you to believe & regurgitate!

  6. Bill March 20, 2009

    I have believed for years that we should look at consolidation of government units. Would love to learn if it really will work to save money and improve efficiency.

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