According to a story this week in the Topeka Capital Journal, more than two dozen Kansas lawmakers have plans to attend the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, annual meeting in Chicago this August.
That, in and of itself, might not seem like such a big deal – it’s the off-season for Kansas lawmakers and the conference is billed as a way for state lawmakers from across the country to come together and share ideas with one another.
But what is almost comically ironic is that several lawmakers who plan to attend the conference – where they will learn the ways of limited government, reduced taxes and decreased regulation that is the cornerstone of ALEC’s teachings – have already asked the state’s taxpayers to pay up to $100 of their travel expenses to attend the conference.
So far the list of those seeking the travel subsidy includes state Rep. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, and state Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who previously represented Franklin County in the Senate before last summer’s redistricting. Others asking for such aid include Sens. Garrett Love, Terry Bruce, Julia Lynn, Mary Pilcher-Cook and Jim Denning, along with House members Rob Bruchman, Marvin Kleeb, Dennis Hedke and Ron Ryckman.
“Attending the meeting in Chicago will be a benefit for legislators of all backgrounds and interests,” State Rep. Ray Merrick, R-Stillwell, Kansas Speaker of the House and ALEC board member, told the Journal. “Legislators share their knowledge and experiences with one another and hear from national leaders and policy experts.”
It might be true that lawmakers benefit from their attendance, but there’s very little chance that the average working class Kansan will realize any benefit at all. By and large, ALEC is supported by large corporations and the group develops model legislation that serves those organizations’ interests, some of it at the expense of poor and middle class families.
But the bigger issue is that a group of self proclaimed budget hawks apparently missed the memo that government spending is the root of all evil, and that even the smallest government expenditure is a misuse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
According to the legislative administrative service, in fiscal year 2012 legislators received $150,666 for convention-related travel expenses. In fiscal year 2013, lawmakers received total reimbursement of $119,528 for such travel – and the upcoming year totals more than $4,875 so far, with the filing deadline not ending until June 30, 2014.
Kansas lawmakers are certainly free to attend whatever conferences they think will help them become better legislators. But it’s a special type of hypocrisy when a group of legislators who brand themselves as budget watchdogs and small government conservatives eagerly line up for a taxpayer handout to help pay for a voluntary networking weekend in Chicago.
— The Hutchinson News