The State Finance Council took it upon themselves to spend $363 million in two years for the construction of a new Lansing Prison. Lansing needs a prison and other state facilities need repair or replacement. An obvious one is Osawatomie State Hospital.
It is disappointing eight legislative leaders and the governor decided to spend this money without consideration from other legislators, especially while the Legislature is in session. The State Finance Council is made up of the governor, president of the Senate, speaker of the House, majority leader from the Senate, minority leader from Senate, chair of Ways and Means from the Senate, majority leader from the House, minority leader from the House, and the appropriations chair from the House. Instead of debating the priorities of the state in the full Legislature, a small group made the decision for the entire legislative body.
What about mental health facilities? One out of every 25 people will experience a serious mental illness. More than 300,000 adults and 40,000 children in Kansas live with serious mental health conditions. Over 400 Kansans die by suicide each year.
For decades, state and federal support for mental health has declined. The result is that our mentally ill are landing in jails and hospitals that are not equipped to handle them. Ignoring the situation is only going to make it worse. Osawatomie, Larned, and Parsons state hospitals need attention. The political winds look to be blowing to move or lower the number of beds in Osawatomie. I will fight against this effort. We need more beds in Osawatomie and throughout the state. Osawatomie used to have over 200 beds available. But a few years ago, the administration put a moratorium on lowering the number of beds, and lost federal funds so that under 150 beds are available. The catchment area for Osawatomie is around 60 counties — some of the largest in the state: including Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee, and Sedgewick. Yes, we need a prison, but we also need mental health facilities. It would have been prudent for the State Finance Council to take this under consideration also.
Currently, it’s somewhat slow in Topeka, but that’s good. The less government the better. As Ronald Reagen said, “Man is not free unless government is limited.”
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your senator.
Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, represents Franklin County and the 12th District in the Kansas Senate.