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This program is worth keeping

Spending cuts that hurt poor hurt Kansas

By The Mercury

Republican legislators are digging into every nook and cranny of state government in search of spending to cut so that they and Gov. Sam Brownback can cut taxes even further… after they make sure the state can absorb last year’s tax cuts.

Their search has led them to, among other places, a program that helps poor working families send their children to college.

As state programs go, it’s a small one. It’s geared to assist up to 1,200 families — with a maximum of 300 in any of the state’s congressional districts. This year the program is helping 988 families at a cost of about $500,000. Since 2007, the program has cost the state about $2.1 million, state officials say. Participating families have incomes of 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level — about $47,000 for a family of four.

They benefit when the state matches contributions they make to LearningQuest, the state’s 529 college savings plan, with a maximum state match of $600 a year. The program not only adds an incentive to save for families whose incomes make saving particularly difficult, but also enables committed parents to help their children achieve the dream of postsecondary education.

Such investments ought to matter to any legislator who thinks higher education — in a state university or a technical college — is integral to this state’s future. Those lawmakers ought to answer with a resounding “Yes!” to the question Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican who chairs the House General Government Budget Committee, asked last week: “Is it a core function of government?”

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