Nikki Hager: Millennials need to speak up and vote

08/26/2014 5:08 PM

08/26/2014 6:36 PM

Analysts at both the right-leaning Tax Foundation and left-leaning Center on Budget Priorities named Kansas’ most recent tax reform policy the worst tax reform plan in the nation.

According to The New York Times, the measure, which hacks tax revenue and fails to reduce any state spending, produced a few hundred million dollars less than expected in the past fiscal year. To fill the gap, the Legislature turned to non-recurring measures and state highway funds. By depending on funds that are unavailable long-term, the Legislature fails to meet its obligation of generationally responsible spending.

To make budget matters worse, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding was so inadequate that it violated the state’s constitution, and it ordered the state to increase funding for some schools.

The November elections will be one of the first opportunities for Kansans to respond at the ballot box to the measures passed by the Kansas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Often resulting from partisan gridlock, tax policies that “kick the can down the road” have become the new norm. Right now, Brownback wants to double down on the plan that put his state’s finances in ruins.

While irresponsible budgets like Brownback’s affect all Kansans, there is one group they affect more than others: millennials.

When we talk about the state budget, all of the non-recurring jargon tossed around means something — it’s not sustainable. The burden falls on young people now and somewhere down the line. What will we do when the state runs out of “non-recurring measures” and what will happen to the state highways if we are using their designated money to fund schools and other state programs?

Generationally responsible spending is just one of the issues that Common Sense Action cares about. CSA is the first bipartisan advocacy organization for millennials, based on 39 college campuses in 20 states. I am currently working with fellow students to bring a chapter of CSA to my university, the University of Tulsa, this fall.

Politicians often think of millennials as a generation that is disengaged and fails to vote.

That is why my generation needs to step up to the plate and take ownership of issues that will affect us both long-term (sustainable state budgets and adequate funding for infrastructure) and in the present day (such as reducing student loan debt). The goal of CSA is to provide millennials a seat at the policymaking table to tackle these problems.

We millennials need to show Kansas politicians that we do care. One action we should take is to vote in November’s election for candidates who represent us.

If we continue to vote in fewer numbers than other generations, it reduces the chances of our voices being heard. While irresponsible state budgets affect everyone, the brunt of the burden is left to millennials, which is exactly why my generation needs to start holding politicians accountable to our needs.

Nikki Hager grew up in Mission and is co-founder of the Common Sense Action chapter at the University of Tulsa, where she is now a senior majoring in political science.

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