The 2016 Session of the Kansas Legislature began on Monday, January 11th. My committee assignments this year include the House Judiciary Committee, General Government Budget and Vision 2020. The calendar will remain full over the next few weeks as bills are introduced and committees begin their work. Complete daily calendars are available here. In addition to my newsletter, I am working to keep constituents more informed via Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to follow me at https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK/ and https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck
It is an honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives. I very much appreciate your input on matters before the Kansas Legislature so please do not hesitate to contact me. If I can be of service to you or anyone you know please call my office at 785-296-7371 or email me at email@example.com
State of the State
On Tuesday, Governor Brownback gave his sixth State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate. Unfortunately, the governor focused on national issues such as President Obama, refugees, foreign policy, and national security, rather than focusing on the issues affecting our state and citizens. For instance the state faces a budget shortfall of $14 million in the current fiscal year and a projected shortfall of at least $170 million in the next fiscal year and the Governor did not address this in his speech. It is extremely disappointing that the governor chose to focus his speech on partisan issues rather than providing leadership on the issues affecting all Kansans.
Representative Tom Burroughs, Minority Leader in the House, delivered the Democratic response to the governor’s State of the State and provided a clear alternative to more of the same from the Governor’s agenda. Rep. Burroughs laid out a clear vision for Democrats for the 2016 session. A vision of economic growth, strong education, a balanced budget, and a government that is transparent for the people of Kansas. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature during this Legislative session to address the challenges facing our state.
Governor’s Budget Recommendations
On Wednesday morning the Governor’s Budget Director, Shawn Sullivan, presented the Governor’s Budget Recommendations to a joint meeting of the House and Senate budget committees. Given the current budget shortfalls the governor had to provide answers to how he wanted to fill those holes. Since the passage of the tax bills in 2012, Kansas has been experiencing an economic free-fall with many months presenting budget deficits. Historically, the governor proposed filling the budget hole with transfers from the Dept. of Transportation’s Highway Fund and other fund transfers. Unfortunately, he presented more of the same this time around. Specifically, the governor recommended the following:
- Transferring over $27 million from the Highway Fund
- Transferring $50.6 million from the Children’s Initiative Fund
- Transferring $2.9 million from the K-12 Extraordinary Needs Fund
Rather than addressing the true causes of the budget shortfall the governor proposed raiding the Highway Fund that keeps our roads and bridges from falling into disrepair and more fund transfers including funds that help the children of Kansas. I am concerned about the transferring of funds out of the Children’s Initiative Fund. This fund supports programs aimed at the health and wellbeing of the children of Kansas and it must be protected. You can read the governor’s full budget proposal here: http://budget.ks.gov/gbr.htm.
Many Kansans have been asked to pay more in taxes while others pay none. I am not supportive of policies that fail to address the root cause of the state’s budget crisis -- or the continued raid of the Highway and other Funds.
During the 2015 Legislative Session the GOP controlled Legislature decided to hire, at the price of over $2.6 million, an outside firm to audit state government in search of “efficiencies.” A preliminary report from that group was presented to the Legislature on Tuesday. The preliminary report is over 260 pages in length and it proposes making many changes to state government and services. For instance, the report recommends consolidating many Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) area service facilities; closing Department of Corrections facilities; selling state owned buildings and land; closing several Community Development and Disability Organization’s (CDDO); and delaying state agencies from making timely payments to contractors.
There are literally hundreds of recommendations and I am still going through them all. You can see the full report online at: http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/AppropriationsRevenue/KansasStatewideEfficiencyInterimRpt2016Jan12.pdf
I will be watching action on this report closely as many of the proposed changes will drastically change the ability of state government to provide services and help to the people of Kansas.
I do believe it is important to seek ways to improve the efficiency of state government; however, many of these recommendations move beyond efficiencies and are simply cuts for the sake of making cuts.