2015 Legislative Update - Issue 11

I am proud to represent you, and the 32nd district in the Kansas House of Representatives.  

This 2015 session is proving to be challenging as the state’s fiscal crisis continues. When the Legislature returns in late April,  difficult choices will need to be made about the state’s budget. As proposals move forward, I will consider any plan that is fair, equitable, and sustainable and puts the needs of middle class families like yours and mine first.

The most important part of my job is to listen to you, my constituents. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.

Thank you for your ongoing support. I look forward to continuing our work to improve our district and this great state.

Sincerely,

Pam Curtis
State Representative 
District 32

State Revenue Crisis Worsens

As a result of the governor’s failed economic experiment, the Kansas budget has been short more than $320 million over the past year.

The governor and his legislative allies have relied heavily on one-time revenue sources to fill the gap. Over the past year the budget has been augmented by:  

  • Transferring $158.5 million from the State Highway Fund, which is used to ensure high quality and safe roads across Kansas. 
  • Delaying $7.9 million in investments to the Kansas Employee Retirement System (KPERS), further threatening state employees’ pensions and increasing long-term costs.
  • Cutting more than $51 million from this year’s K-12 budget, forcing schools to end the school year early and cut critical programs. 
  • Cutting more $16.2 million from state colleges and universities, a move which could force the institutions to raise tuition and fees and pricing students out of a college education.
  • Cutting more than $66.4 million from various state agencies, delaying and restricting critical services provided by the state.

The state of Kansas cannot afford to continue on this path. Moving forward the legislature should prioritize the needs of working, middle class families by focusing on sustainable long-term solutions to the state’s revenue problem.  

 

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The chart above was provided by the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department and shows the budget deficit for the 2015 fiscal year.  

Governor's Budget Relies on Tax Increases

Both the House and the Senate have begun negotiations on the budget; as it stands now the budget is not balanced and will require more than $220 million in new taxes.

The Governor suggests raising revenue by:

  • Raising taxes on alcohol by 4%.
  • Raising taxes on cigarettes by more than $1.50 per pack.
  • Reducing the state’s investment into public employee’s pensions.
  • Taking more than $1 million a day from the state highway fund, a program that has been proven to create new jobs and spur economic growth.

None of the Governor’s revenue proposals offer stable long-term solutions for the Kansas budget. I will oppose any proposal that places the tax burden unfairly on the back of middle class and working Kansans.

Protecting Working Kansans

I believe those who work hard should have the opportunity to succeed, but this year the Kansas Legislature is making it difficult.

Payroll Deductions

There is a proposal before the legislature to ban all automatic payroll deductions. If passed, charitable contributions, membership fees, and union dues will no longer be allowed to be taken directly from an employee’s paychecks, despite their wishes otherwise. I will oppose this bill as it comes forward because workers –not politicians– should be able to decide for themselves.  

Collective Bargaining

A bill being debated by the legislature would prohibit state employees from collective bargaining. I will oppose this bill if it comes before the House because state employees deserve the right to negotiate their pay, benefits, hours, leave, and safety policies.

Limiting Unemployment Benefits

A bill passed this session decreases the employer contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and simultaneously caps the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit available to a Kansas worker who has fallen on hard times. The bill allows for employers to keep more and for employees to receive less in a time when they need help the most. 

I voted no on this unfair and damaging piece of legislation because it makes it even harder for Kansans to make ends meet.

Changing Classifications

State employees are currently classified, meaning their employment cannot be terminated without just cause. This protects them from partisan pressures and allows them to do their job, without fearing political retribution. A bill passed by the legislature will change their status from classified to ‘at-will’ employees, meaning they can now be fired without cause. I voted no because this bill opens the door to political patronage and corruption.

I value the strong work ethic of Kansas workers and will continue to oppose policies that harm them.

Failing to Expand Medicaid Proves Costly

Despite the overwhelming support for Medicaid Expansion, the Kansas Legislature will take no further action on the legislation this year. Failing to expand Medicaid is taking a toll on Kansas’ healthcare providers and on the state’s economy.

Rejecting expansion has:

  • Cost the state more than $475 million,
  • Kept more than 150,000 Kansans from receiving healthcare coverage,
  • Prevented an estimated 3,800 new jobs.  

It also provides more stability for safety net clinics by lowering uncompensated costs by at least $25 million. It is time for the state to Expand Medicaid. 

Massive Cuts to Kansas Schools 

The governor recently signed into law a school finance plan eliminating the current funding formula and allocating funds via block grant to each school district. In doing so, the bill cuts more than $51 million from school districts across the state this year alone. 

Kansas has a moral obligation to fund public schools. I voted no on this bill for several reasons:

  • In the days leading up to the vote I received countless phone calls and emails from you, my constituents, asking me to vote against the bill.
  • School districts, superintendents, teachers, and education advocates alike warned of the untold damage the bill would exact on an entire generation of Kansas students.
  • It doesn’t increase funding to schools. In a time when Kansas should be investing in public education, this bill freezes educational funding at levels that are equal to 1992 levels. 
  • By eliminating the formula, it freezes educational funding at 2015 levels for two school years. To adjust, school districts will have to make even more cuts – school years will get shorter and class sizes will go up. 
  • It creates inequalities amongst rich and poor districts by removing equalization weightings, meaning a student in Wyandotte County will no longer receive the same education as a student in Johnson County. 
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Paid for by Pam Curtis For State Representative. Steve Curtis, Treasurer.