The Kansas Highway Patrol had a big ask for lawmakers recently — $16.4 million to pay for two new helicopters, a new airplane and operating expenses.

But the request appears reasonable and with Wichita being the Air Capital of the World, our law enforcement officials should have access to quality aircraft. It’s not about the bells and whistles, of course. It’s about keeping the people of our state safe.

“We’re the sole provider of airborne law enforcement in the state,” said KHP Capt. Jason Vanderweide, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter. “So, when the call comes in, we are it. In the past it was traffic enforcement. Those days are few and far between. We’re always getting called to the manhunt, the car chase, the surveillance.”

With such needs, and with a statewide footprint, it just makes sense for lawmakers to invest in the highway patrol’s proposal.

There have also been unfortunate recent failures. A chase in Ellis County last year saw a KHP aircraft camera fail three times, Vanderweide said. Problems like that don’t just frustrate troopers. They can also put law-abiding Kansans at risk.

The highway patrol would help offset costs, too, by trading in two old airplanes and a helicopter for some $2 million. It’s a good-faith gesture that shows the budget request is truly about making keeping service at a high level, not adding bells and whistles.

We understand. Lawmakers want to save money and, if possible, reduce spending. But Kansas has been through the budget wringer over the past decade.

In a futile search for growth through ruinous tax policy, damaging choices were made. Requests were denied. Cuts were made. Funds were swept. And agencies throughout state government bore the brunt, in some cases becoming less effective and less efficient as they were forced to do more with less. Our highway patrol has continued to do great work, but this request shows that even higher profile state agencies require ongoing, proactive investment.

It’s not about spending money for the sake of spending money — it’s about spending money to make sure that Kansans are safe and secure.

We urge lawmakers to bear these facts in mind as they consider adding funds to purchase the aircraft. Planes and cars and computers wear out. To provide the best service, they must be periodically replaced. It’s that simple.

Topeka Capital-Journal

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