Legislative Committee work was very busy this week with presentations on many important issues, introductions of new bills and hearings on bills previously introduced. I was very honored to have MJ Tomasic and Genny Klobe serve as Legislative pages on Tuesday. Serving as a Legislative page gives students an opportunity to experience the legislative process first hand. I always enjoy when I get to spend the day with students from my district.
It remains an incredible honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives. While the Legislature is in Session, I do my best to stay in touch and keep you informed by email, and I spend countless hours every week helping my constituents solve problems. If I can be of service to you or anyone you know, please call my office at 785-296-7371, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Representative, District 32
Revenue Numbers Down (Again)
State revenue was $47 million below estimates in January. For the past six months state revenue has missed its mark, leaving a deficit of more than $300 million for the fiscal year. The shortfall is a result of Governor Brownback’s irresponsible tax plan that was passed in 2012. Continued shortfalls of $436 million are predicted for 2016 fiscal year, which the Legislature will have to address later this session.
Rescission Bill Makes Deep Cuts
With the state facing a $300 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year, the House this week passed a rescission bill that revokes more than $250 million previously allocated funds to fill the budget gap for the year. The bill will:
- Transfer $158.5 million from the State Highway Fund,
- Delay $7.9 million in investments to the Kansas Employee Retirement System (KPERS),
- Sweep $12 million from the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) Fund, and
- Cut $7.1 million from the Job Creation Program Fund.
I voted against the bill because it is an irresponsible, short-term solution that does nothing to address the long-term problems affecting our state. I strongly believe that a one-time cut to vital state programs is not a sustainable path for our future and will not grow the Kansas economy.
State Highway Fund
Governor Brownback continues to treat the State Highway Fund as a piggy bank he can dig into on a rainy day, cutting a total of more than $1 billion to date. Taking money from the fund, a proven job creator will delay necessary projects for local communities across the state and will contribute to the continued disintegration of our roads threating the safety of Kansas drivers.
The Kansas Empowerment for Youth (KEY) Fund provides money for vital programs and services for young Kansans like Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, childcare assistance, and newborn screening. I am greatly concerned about the long-term consequences of using funds earmarked for children to shore up the gaps in the state budget.
Failing to adequately invest in KPERS may help fill the deficit now, but inevitably Kansas will have to invest more money to meet its obligations to future retirees. Pushing the cost into the future is not sustainable, and threatens the solvency of the system.
The Governor’s 2012 tax plan was passed to create “a shot of adrenaline to the Kansas economy” by creating jobs, but after three years the plan has proven to be more like an ax wound as Kansas continues to bleed revenue. Ironically enough, the state is now making cuts to the Job Creation Fund, a program that strengthens the economy, to help cover the cost of the damage the Governor’s plan has created.
Governor’s Allotments Cut K-12 & Higher Education
Although the Legislature’s recent rescission bill made reductions to the current fiscal year’s budget, it was not enough to cover the entire cost of the damage caused by Governor Brownback’s reckless tax plan. In order to fill the remaining budget shortfall Governor Brownback issued another round of immediate cuts this time to K-12 education and state universities. The measure, known as allotments, would take 1.5% from K-12 and 2% from state universities, totally more than $44.5 million. The cuts, which are coming late in the fiscal year, will make it difficult for school districts and universities to absorb as a majority of their money has already been designated. The Governor is unfairly forcing future generations of Kansans to pay for the cost of his failed experiment.
School Finance Bill Threatens Additional Cuts
A bill that would reduce education funding is working its way through the Kansas Senate. The bill, SB 71, would change the way the state computes supplemental general state aide, also known as the local option budget. If passed, the bill would immediately cut more than $39 million from Kansas’ public schools. School districts in Wyandotte County would lose $1,068,655 this school year. These funds have already been budgeted, and in many cases have already been spent, leaving local districts to absorb the costs.