2018 Legislative Update 1

The 2018 Kansas Legislative Session began on Monday, January 8th. The legislature has several major issues to address this year, and we are ready to get to work on finding commonsense, bipartisan solutions. Kansas works better when we work together. We look forward to strengthening the bipartisan coalition that enabled us to make positive changes last year and building on that coalition to continue to work for the good of every Kansan.

2018 State of the State Address

The annual State of the State Address was delivered by Governor Brownback last Tuesday. Over the last several months, Brownback had begun handing over his gubernatorial duties to Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer, as he expected to be confirmed by the United States Senate for an ambassadorship. Brownback was nominated for the ambassador position by Donald Trump last year. The U.S. Senate did not confirm the appointment, leaving confusion in Kansas over who is leading the state.

Brownback has stated that he will remain in Kansas in his current position until confirmed. Though Brownback delivered the State of the State – the administration remains in limbo as we head into the 2018 session.

In a surprise move, Brownback proposed in his address that $600 million be funneled to Kansas public schools over the next five years. This is a direct contradiction to the Governor’s previous rhetoric and budgets. He has consistently pushed for spending cuts, not for more spending – his call for more school funding had led to a public disagreement between the Governor and Republican legislative leadership.

Democratic Response

This year, the Democratic response to the Governor’s State of the State address was delivered by House Democratic Leader, Rep. Jim Ward. At the close of the address, both House and Senate Democratic Caucuses gathered for a press conference, laying out their vision and priorities for the 2018 session.

These include sufficient and fair funding for all Kansas schools, fiscal responsibility, Medicaid expansion, job creation and training, restoring funding to core services, and building on the bipartisan coalition forged during the 2017 session to continue work on behalf of all Kansans.

You can view the Democratic response to the State of the State here.

School Finance

In October 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the school finance bill passed during the 2017 session as unconstitutional, giving the legislature a deadline of April 30, 2018 to present a new formula that will satisfy the adequacy and equity portions of the Gannon case.

Some conservative Republicans in the legislature have opposed the Court’s ruling, and will seek a constitutional amendment to restrict the Court’s role in the matter of school finance. The Kansas Constitution directs that “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state” in Article VI.

Every child in Kansas deserves access to a quality education, regardless of where they live. Democrats are ready to get to work immediately on crafting a formula that meets all of the Court’s requirements and ensures our children are provided with every opportunity available.

Budget Proposal

Governor Brownback – who had previously handed the budget reins to Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer in anticipation of his confirmation by the United States Senate – released his full budget proposal on Wednesday. Budget Director Sean Sullivan presented the proposal to the House Appropriations Committee. The proposal includes $35.5 million in new spending for fiscal year 2018 (FY18) and $290 million in new spending for FY19.

There is nothing in the proposal, however, to suggest how the Governor would pay for the new spending. Sullivan said they are betting on revenue growth and the legislature to come up with how to help pay for the additional spending. Sullivan’s “bottom line” budget document notes that sales tax revenues (in previous years stagnant) have grown 3.6% and that corporate tax revenues (negative for the last several years) have grown 25%.

The budget proposal has seen heavy criticism from Brownback’s Republican allies in legislative leadership. ____________________________________________________________________________

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative.  I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.  My office address is Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612.  You can reach me at (785) 296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me.  Additionally, you can e-mail me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov You can also follow the legislative session online at  www.kslegislature.org


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