Archive for Tuesday, December 30, 2008

State still needs to look forward

December 30, 2008

The Lawrence Journal-World said in a recent editorial:

A Lawrence legislator will head a committee next year that could have a hand in setting a bright future for Kansas.

With the state facing a $141 million deficit, it’s natural — and necessary — for the Kansas Legislature to focus considerable attention on the state’s short-term challenges. At the same time, it’s important for the state not to lose track of goals and issues that are further down the road.

With that in mind, leaders in the Kansas House have created the Vision 2020 Committee and appointed a veteran Lawrence legislator — Republican Rep. Tom Sloan — as its chairman.

Already on the committee’s agenda are issues associated with water quality and health care delivery in the state. Sloan has been looking for some time at the future of the state’s reservoirs, on which many communities depend for their municipal water supplies. The reservoirs are silting in quicker than expected and the state needs to look at solutions that will maintain the supply and quality of water from those lakes.

Delivery of health care services, especially in rural areas, could be greatly improved through technology that provides video links between doctor’s offices and regional hospitals. This is another natural area for Sloan, who has considerable experience in telecommunications legislation.

It seems that any number of issues could benefit from the visionary approach that Sloan’s committee is envisioned to supply. In the years to come, for instance, the state needs to look more creatively at its transportation system and at ways to build its economy.

The committee’s task is to identify issues that require a long-range approach. As Sloan said last week, “This fiscal problem will end at some point, and we have some major issues we have to continue looking at.”

Although the Kansas Legislature has the future of Kansas at heart, it rarely looks more than a year or two down the road. Especially when it comes to money and budgets, current problems are consuming enough without tackling issues that don’t demand immediate attention.

The long-range future of Kansas, however, depends on our ability to anticipate both problems and opportunities and set a strategy to solve the former and take advantage of the latter. It’s good to see at least one legislative committee will be focused specifically on that task.

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