What’s Going On?

Apr 30, 2016 by

We’ve been here in the statehouse since 8:30 this morning and we’re approaching dinner time now. And we have nearly nothing to report.

There had been hopes that this would be the last day of the session but that is looking less likely as the minutes roll by.

The budget committee has been meeting on and off all day and much of the debate in there has been over education.

First, they are adjusting the cuts to universities such that KU and KSU will get larger cuts; PSU and ESU get smaller cuts and WSU stays about the same. This issue was pressed by Senator LaTurner (R-Pittsburg), a strong supporter of the Governor’s tax plans that have moved the state to near-bankruptcy and caused several highway projects in his district to be delayed or cancelled. LaTurner has sent a letter to the Governor begging him to let the transportation projects in his district go forward. LaTurner is also the brains behind a bill capping the ability of local units of government to raise tax dollars that could be used to offset state losses. His avid support of Brownback is costing his district plenty and he faces a strong challenge in his re-election bid this fall. So far he has only managed to get PSU’s cut down to about $750,000 instead of $1 million.

The next debate on the bill is over K-12 education. House members want to “put a fence” around K-12 funding, prohibiting the Governor from cutting K-12 funding going forward. Senate negotiators don’t want to protect K-12. At this time it looks as if the report will go to the House floor with the K-12 protection.

Of course, the bill also contains the delay in KPERS payments as well as the delay in paying KPERS back. The state would be off the hook for the delayed KPERS payments until 2018. The bill contains a provision that calls for KPERS to be given any money that comes in above the revenue estimates. Since the estimates have not been hit 11 of the last 12 months, it is unlikely that KPERS will get any payments any time soon.

The Senate is now out until 8:00 pm at which time they will consider some conference committee reports but not the budget report. That has to go through the House first. The House is not expected to have the budget report ready until around 11:00 pm.

A budget debate could take them past midnight and going past midnight requires a special vote. Additionally, there is some thought that the budget might not have the votes to pass.

All of this means that ending the session tonight is looking more challenging. We anticipate being back tomorrow or maybe moving into next week.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Option 4: On the Table! (at least it should be)

Apr 27, 2016 by

Legislature Returns

The so-called “Veto Session” of the Kansas Legislature got underway this morning with both chambers gaveling in about 10:00 a.m.

Today was a very slow day. The Senate announced early that they would not be taking any votes today and the House dispensed with a couple of conference committee reports before calling it a day.

The conference committee report on SB 387 (making the Pooled Money Investment Board a separate state agency) was adopted on a vote of 119 to 0 and the conference committee report on SB 373 (dealing with toll evasion) was adopted on a vote of 82 to 39.

And that was about it for today.

Having just returned following the dismal revenue estimates and the release of Governor Brownback’s three devastating budget options, folks need a little time to meet quietly with their colleagues and figure out what they want to do and who is going to propose what. We would expect that things will begin to get pretty quickly since they seem to be anxious to finish everything up as quickly as possible.

Rumor has it that the House would like a three or four day veto session; the Senate may be thinking a little longer.

With no clear and immediate consensus that one of Brownback’s plans might be good, there would seem to be little chance of moving as fast as they might like.


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 3.23.34 PMOption Four Proposed

The Governor gave three options for solving the budget gap, all of which would be quite harmful to Kansas and Kansans. His proposals are various combinations of quick fixes and one-time savings but all of them include robbing still more money from the transportation plan and changing road maintenance from once every 12 years for a road to once every 50 years.

Another option is to sell off the tobacco settlement money for a quick influx of cash. This option jeopardizes early childhood programs for infants and toddlers. Brownback also proposed delaying nearly $100 million in payments to KPERS and delaying the payback due date by a year.

His option three includes cutting $57 million from K-12 education (so much for those stabilizing block grants).

Five groups came together in a press conference this morning to call upon the legislature to consider an Option Four – repealing the Brownback income tax cuts. The Kansas Center for Economic Growth organized the event during which Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Contractors Association, the Kansas Organization of State Employees, and Kansas NEA all said that the three options from the Governor were unacceptable and that it was time to restore common sense to Kansas tax policy.

Remarks from KNEA were given by KNEA Lobbyist Mark Desetti:

In repealing the school finance formula and replacing it with the block grant system, Governor Brownback and legislative leaders promised that our K-12 schools would have – if not better funding – at least stable funding. It was to be funding schools could count on.

Now we are on the edge of another broken promise to our children and teachers.

The loss of funding that was provided in response to the Montoy decision was the result not of legislative action but was a legislative response to the great recession. We were sorry to see it happen, but we expected it to be temporary; fixed when the economy recovered.

Instead of restoring recession era cuts, Governor Brownback and his legislative allies implemented a plan that has turned out, in effect, to be a self-inflicted recession when it comes to generating necessary revenue for state services.

While every indicator tells us the experiment is a failure, the legislature continues on the same dangerous path, even doubling down.

Now they propose to sell off a program that has been providing quality early childhood programs for Kansas children, they continue to drain funds from important highway projects jeopardizing our safety, they turn their backs on hardworking Kansans putting their retirement security in jeopardy, they propose driving up the cost of higher education with extended cuts. And now they threaten to slash funding to our K-12 schools.

As our schools drop days from their calendars, reduce to a four day week, and eliminate valuable programs and staff positions, we cannot be more certain that there must be an option four – an option our governor continues to sidestep. It’s time to return to a stable, dependable, and fair tax system. It’s time to put option four on the table.

The definition of insanity, it is said, is to continue doing the same thing and expecting different results. It’s time to step away from the Kansas tax insanity.

The press conference was not long and you can listen to all of it by clicking here.

You can read coverage from today’s press conference on CJOnline by clicking here.


Topeka Capital-Journal Reporters Tour the State to Ask Everyday Kansans What They Think of the Governor and Kansas Legislature

In an extensive report published today in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Reporter Tim Carpenter writes about what he and other reporters heard while traveling the state during the five week legislative break. The reporters visited more than 40 Kansas communities from border to border to talk to homemakers, business owners, teachers, retirees, and employees (but no politicians) about the direction Governor Brownback and the legislature have moved our state.

And what was clear in everything people said? They are worried. They are frustrated with the inability of politicians to admit their mistakes and change course. They are worried about the partisan sniping and politicking while their hospitals are closing, schools are being challenged, and roads are degrading.

Carpenter highlights two prominent issues: “They’ve lost touch” and “Dysfunctionality.”

We urge our readers to take a look at the article and the accompanying videos online by clicking here.

read more

Oops! We Missed it Again!

Mar 1, 2016 by

New revenue figures just out showed that the state missed revenue projections yet again – this time by $53 million. Kansas was down significantly in both income tax and sales tax receipts.

The budget bill passed by the legislature and not yet signed by Governor Brownback, left the state with a $6 million balance so the figures in today put Kansas once again in the hole. And yet we still have not heard a whisper from House or Senate leadership or the Governor about how to stop the bleeding.

Months and months of continual losses have jeopardized all state services from highways to public safety to education and everything in between. Still leadership refuses to acknowledge what most Kansans have already figured out – the disastrous and reckless tax cuts of 2013-13 have bankrupted the state. How they can continue to cut rates and allow more than 330,000 businesses to pay no income taxes at all and expect revenues to increase boggles the mind.

None of the figures accounts for the requirement that the legislature restore equity to the school finance system. This has been estimated to be somewhere between $54 and $100 million.

Brownback has the authority to line-item veto portions of the budget bill to make up some of the deficit. The bill also gives him permission to use up to $100 in KPERS payments to shore up the budget but this money is required to be paid back to KPERS with 8% interest by September. Such a payback would certainly require a big turnaround in collections.

This is the atmosphere in which the legislature returns to Topeka tomorrow after their turnaround break.

 

read more

Related Posts

Share This

KPERS Sweep; School Finance & Sex Ed; Anti-Common Core Guru

Feb 16, 2016 by

Budget Conference Committee Okays Taking from KPERS

It didn’t take long after both chambers passed a budget bill for a conference committee to hammer out an agreement.

One of the most important issues in the budget that we are tracking is the Governor’s desire to use KPERS money to balance his budget on paper.

The House bill allowed a delay in payments to KPERS into the next fiscal year. In essence, this action would make the state appear to have more money at the end of this fiscal year and give the illusion of a balanced budget.

The House had amended the bill such that the money would be required to be given to KPERS in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate budget bill removed the delay in KPERS funding so that KPERS payments would be made on time. It didn’t take long for the conference committee to take the House position.

With this action, it is looking more likely that the KPERS payments will be delayed and members of KPERS will have to keep their fingers crossed hoping the legislature and Governor do not renege on the promise to make the payment with interest.

The real problem in all of this is that the budget does not work. The delay balances the budget on paper only. Nothing is being done in either chamber to address the root cause of the problem – a series of reckless tax cuts that have turned the state’s revenue stream into a trickle. And nothing has been done or is even been talked about openly about dealing with the Supreme Court’s equity decision in the Gannon school finance lawsuit.


School Finance and Sex Education in House Committee

The House Education Committee held a hearing today on a classroom based school finance bill proposed by Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe). Schwab’s bill, HB 2596, would require the legislative post audit division to calculate the cost of education on a per classroom basis for each congressional district. Based on that calculation, a district would get a certain amount of funding per classroom with additional funding for administration and capital costs.

In the first year, this plan would be piloted in one district from each congressional district and then apply to all districts the next year. Every year, an increase in funding based on the consumer price index would be applied and every 10 years costs would be analyzed again to make additional adjustments.

Schwab told the committee that his bill was “not ready for the floor.” He was providing a framework for a committee discussion. He urged the committee to listen to others and consider changes. “If you like the premise and want to make amendments, go ahead and do so. If you don’t like the premise, then okay, don’t do it,” he told the committee.

Chairman Highland (R-Wamego) left the hearing open in case they want to hear from others on the idea.

 

In a surprise move, Highland suggested they turn their attention to HB 2199. This bill from last year changes participation in human sexuality education from district choice on student opt in or opt out to mandating opt in. In addition, it would require district policies that guarantee any student who has not opted in will not be exposed to any of the materials from the class.

The bill was a response to a complaint from a parent in the Shawnee Mission School District. His daughter had taken a photo of a poster from the district’s adopted curriculum that she and her parents found offensive.

This bill would things very difficult for teachers in human sexuality programs. Essentially no materials could be out in a classroom that is used for classes other than human sexuality. Additionally districts would have to ensure that students who had opted in to the program did not share and materials with their friends who had not.

At the time of the original incident, the Shawnee Mission School District took action to ensure that the poster would not be used in the program, addressing the parental complaint. Not satisfied, the parent sought legislation.

The bill had passed out of committee last year and was never taken to the full House for debate. It was referred to an exempt committee at the tail end of the session and so was alive for reconsideration this year.

Representative Tony Barton (R-Leavenworth) made the motion to pass the bill out favorable. The motion passed and the bill now goes back to the full House for consideration.


House Ed Committee to Hear from Tea Party Darling, Duke Pesta

Duke Pesta, and English professor from the University of Wisconsin at Osh Kosh, is the invited guest of the House Education Committee for their meeting tomorrow.

Pesta is revered in Tea Party circles for his vitriolic attacks on the common core standards. He is the Academic Director of Freedom Project Education, an on-line high school providing a “K – 12 classical education with a Biblical foundation and Americanist perspective.”

 

read more

New Common Core Ban Bill; House Passes Budget

Feb 11, 2016 by

New House Bill Would Essentially Ban Education

Today’s bill releases includes HB 2676. This is a rehash of a Rep. John Bradford (R-Lansing) bill from last year that prohibits the use of any standards related to the Common Core or developed by any consortium or any other organization. As we reported on last year’s version, this bill would ban AP, IB, SAT and ACT, all of which are aligned to common core standards. It would also end participation in the Lexia reading program – a program singled out by conservatives in the legislature as a preferred reading intervention program. Lexia too is aligned with the common core standards.

This bill includes another proposal from last year dealing with a requirement for prior written consent from every parent before any data can be collected on a student.

“’Prior written consent’ means that a parent or legal guardian’s signature is required on a written document that notifies the parent or legal guardian what data will be collected, how the data will be collected, how the data will be used, what person or entity the data will be shared with and the dates over which the disclosed data will be used.”

Wow. You might want to read this one! Click here for a copy.

Sponsors of the bill, in addition to John Bradford, are Republicans Joe Scapa, Tony Barton, Blake Carpenter, JR Claeys, Pete DeGraaf, Willie Dove, Estes, Randy Garber, Mario Goico, Houser, Becky Hutchins, Dick Jones, Kevin Jones, Mike Kiegerl, Jerry Lunn, Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Jan Pauls, Virgil Peck, Randy Powell, Rahjes, Read, Marc Rhoades, Rubin, Seiwert, Sutton, Jene Vickrey, Weber, and Whitmer.


House Passes Budget Bill on Final Action

The House passed SB 161, the budget bill debated yesterday on a vote of 68 to 56. There was some thought that the Gannon decision handed down this morning might impact the vote since the ruling will require approximately $50 million in additional funding for K-12 schools.

A number of traditional Republicans and Democrats explained their NO votes, decrying the failure of the legislature to address the real issue – tax breaks that have eaten away at the state’s ability to fund services.

The bill also delays payments to KPERS. While an amendment offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria) were adopted that would require KPERS to be paid within the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest, it does not ease the concerns of hard-working teachers and other public employees who have watched as the legislature drained funds from the highway fund. There is little faith outside of the statehouse that revenues will recover sufficiently to meet state needs.

The roll call vote is as follows:

YEA: Anthimides, Barker, Barton, Billinger, Boldra, Bradford, Campbell, B. Carpenter, W. Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, E. Davis, Dove, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Hemsley, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Hutchins, Hutton, Johnson, D. Jones, K. Jones, Kahrs, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mason, Mast, McPherson, Merrick, O’Brien, Osterman, Pauls, R. Powell, Prroehl, Rahjes, Read, Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Ryckman Sr, Scapa, Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, C. Smith, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thimesch, Todd, Vickrey, Waymaster, Weber, Whitmer, K. Williams.

NAY: Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Becker, Bollier, Bruchman, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Curtis, DeGraaf, Dierks, Doll, Edmonds, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Helgerson, Henderson, Henry, Hibbard, Highberger, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Kelley, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Moxley, Ousley, F. Patton, Peck, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Scott, Sloan, S. Swanson, Thompson, Tietze, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore.

The Senate is debating a similar budget bill today. They began general orders debate at 3:00. The budget bill is third up and after a debate on a gun bill. We’re looking for a long night and so will report on the outcome tomorrow.


Education Committee Actions

The House Education Committee held a hearing on HB 2532, a bill putting financial literacy into the Rose Standards. The bill was supported by Committee Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego), KNEA, KASB, the Kansas Chamber, and State Treasurer Ron Estes. Walt Chappell was listed as a proponent but asked the committee to replace this bill with one that would mandate a course in financial literacy as a graduation requirement. No action was taken on the bill.

The Senate Education Committee worked Senate Bill 323, the Jason Flatt Act on suicide prevention. The bill would require training for teachers and principals on recognizing signs of potential suicide. KNEA support the bill while asking the Committee to ensure that teachers could not be held liable should a child actually commit suicide. The bill was amended so that the required training is one hour each year. They also added the liability protection and parental notification. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

read more