New Bills: medicaid, bathrooms, guns on campus and of course… budget gimmickry

Jan 18, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Three bills introduced today: expansion of Medicaid under KanCare, prohibiting transgendered students from using bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity, and repeal of guns on campus law.
  • KNEA President sends letter to Governor and Legislature encouraging fairness and equality for vulnerable students including gay, lesbian, transgender, all faiths, and minority students.
  • Brownback’s budget gimmickry and schemes have failed.
  • A sensible and comprehensive plan exists to put Kansas on the road to recovery, it is called “Rise Up Kansas.”

New Bills of Note

Three bills were introduced this week that should get plenty of press time.

One bill would expand Medicaid under the KanCare program as allowed by the Affordable Care Act. Kansas is one of the states that has refused to expand Medicaid and so given up millions of dollars in federal funding. The purpose of the expansion is to provide health care access to low-income individuals who do not currently have health insurance yet whose income is too high to qualify for subsidies under the ACA. Governor Brownback has steadfastly refused to take advantage of Medicaid expansion effectively denying health care these Kansans. While his allies had strong majorities in both chambers they did not even allow a discussion of the issue. We’ll see how things have changed with the last election. KNEA believes that all Kansans should have access to affordable comprehensive health insurance and supports Medicaid expansion.

Rep. John Whitmer (R-Wichita) has announced plans to introduce yet again a ban to prohibit transgendered individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Whitmer would force transgendered individuals to use bathrooms according to their birth certificate. This bill would have an impact in school districts. USDs currently determine the policy on bathroom and locker room use under local control. The 2016 KNEA Representative Assembly took a strong position in opposition to this bill when it was introduced last year.

Read KNEA President’s Letter to Legislature by CLICKING HERE

Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) has introduced a bill that would repeal the law forcing college campuses to allow the concealed carry of firearms on campus. Kansas colleges, students, and faculty have all come out strongly opposed to allowing guns on campus. KNEA and KNEA’s Higher Education Local Affiliates support the Clayton bill.

The Fate of Brownback’s Budget

Things are not looking too good for Governor Brownback’s budget recommendations. This new legislature appears to have little appetite for the one-time gimmicks and sleight of hand tricks that the Governor and his allies have become dependent upon to save their tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans.

There has been tremendous pushback against Brownback’s ideas from the moment they were launched. And even earlier!

Once again he calls for the securitization of the tobacco settlement funds. These funds come to Kansas annually as part of the national master settlement agreement with cigarette manufacturers. As long as people smoke, Kansas will get an annual payment. Brownback would essentially sell the rights to our future payments to investors. This gives him a quick influx of cash but turns this long-term asset into long-term debt – Kansas would have to turn over future payments to investors. This money supports the Children’s Initiative Fund which provides quality care for preschoolers in every county in the state. Last year’s legislature – which was packed with Brownback allies – repeatedly rejected securitization.

Brownback’s proposal to renege on promises to KPERS and ignore the required employer investments into KPERS for two years has also drawn sharp criticism. After all, legislators have worked diligently to shore up the system and are rightfully proud of that work. Brownback, you might remember, used the work on shoring up KPERS as a major part of his reelection campaign in 2014. Yet here he is suggesting that work be undone in order to save tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans.

Finally, the proposal to put all school employees in a single health care plan has also been met with skepticism. There is little confidence that such a plan will save money without major harm being done to employee benefits and most legislators have little interest in harming the state’s teachers. The Legislative Post Audit division has also urged legislators to hold off. They have a report coming out in February that will analyze the many challenges to be faced in making such a move. There are many implications that must be considered before making such a decision.

With so many new legislators who were elected specifically because they opposed the Governor’s agenda and promised voters a reversal of the disastrous Brownback tax plan, we believe that the 2017 Legislature will forge their own plans – plans designed to return Kansas to common sense – as the session moves on.

There is a sensible and comprehensive solution…

CLICK HERE to listen to last night’s episode of Kansas EdTalk which focused on a sensible and comprehensive solution to recover from Brownback’s failed tax experiment.

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The Art of Denial – Governor Brownback Delivers State of the State

Jan 11, 2017 by

Article Highlights- Click the Arrow to the Right

  • Governor gives State of the State address and promises that KS is “leading the planet” by many measures of success.
  • Governor promises to hold to his failed tax reform policies.
  • Governor’s education policies outline a litany “reforms” that have failed elsewhere promising they will work in KS: merit pay, uncertified teachers, and more tax credits and vouchers for unaccountable private and for-profit schools.
  • Article includes links to full text of Governor’s address along with response by Senator Anthony Hensley.
  • Governor’s budget as outlined by Budget Director Shawn Sullivan includes more of the same, robbing from highway funds, sell-off of Children’s Initiative Fund, and sin taxes.
Brownback State of the State

Brownback State of the State- McClatchy

 

Where to begin…

Governor Sam Brownback gave his annual State-of-the-State address last night and what a work of art that was.

He started off by reminding all of us of how great things are in Kansas now that his 2012 tax plan has taken full effect. He says we have created thousands of jobs, quality of life is better than ever, and, well, the sun is shining in Kansas. It’s the mantra he and his staff and allies have been chanting repeatedly as revenue estimates continue to collapse and every state service is decimated by budget cuts or highway robbery.

This sunshine, he says, is why the legislature must not back off one bit on his tax plans. Not even on the patently unfair and irresponsible elimination of all income taxes on more than 330,000 businesses in Kansas. No, he told us, those tax breaks are creating jobs; jobs that only he apparently can see.

Next, he launched into his great joy at the election of Donald Trump and his delight at the strong possibility of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). It’s going away, he proclaimed, and so this is the wrong time to expand Medicaid. Yes, Governor Brownback continues to refuse to take millions of dollars offered by the federal government – dollars that Kansans are sending to the federal government in taxes – and provide a modicum of health care security for the working poor of our state.

He had plenty to say about education too.

Just as he proposed in 2012 that Kansas adopt Arthur Laffer’s discredited trickle down economic tax theory, he now has a set of discredited education “reforms” he wants the legislature to enact.

In this odd Brownback world, ideas that have been tried repeatedly elsewhere and found to be failures, are sure to work if implemented in Kansas. Trickle down economics for example. Now he wants to try school grading systems, merit pay, untrained teachers in rural schools, and more money to unaccountable private schools. The thing we really need people to understand is that Kansas schools have been great precisely because Kansas has REFUSED to adopt these failed “reforms.”

Well, Governor Brownback has had his chance. He has had six years to enact good policy. In that time he has gutted the state budget, decimated state services, robbed our highways of needed funds, and boosted our sales tax such that Kansans pay the second highest food sales tax in the nation. He eliminated a constitutional, effective school finance system for a block grant system that harmed every district budget. But now he says he wants to lead on education.

Too late, Governor Brownback. The people of Kansas have seen what his policies have accomplished and they want no more of them. That’s why they tossed so many of his allies out of the legislature in August and November. It’s time for Brownback to step aside and leave the work to the new legislature; the legislature that was elected specifically to reverse the damage Brownback has done.

Read the full text of Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address by CLICKING HERE.

Senator Anthony Hensley’s Response to Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address follows:

Budget Director Briefs Committees on Brownback’s Budget

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan appeared before several committees today to share the details of the Governor’s budget proposal.

In a nutshell: more of the same.

The proposal shifts money around, raises a tiny bit of new revenue, steals more out of the highway fund, and proposes selling off future tobacco settlement payments for some short term cash.

It also appears the Governor would like to make a 4th attempt to securitize the Children’s Initiative Fund.  Read Kansas Action for Children’s response to this latest attack on our youngest Kansans by CLICKING HERE.

He raises something less than $200 million in 2018 and 2019 by

  • Taxing passive income such as rents and royalties,
  • Freezing the bottom income tax bracket at 2.7% (scheduled to drop to 2.6%),
  • Increasing a business filing fee from $40 to $200,
  • Increasing the cigarette tax by $1.00,
  • Increasing the tobacco products tax from 10% to 20%, and
  • Increasing the liquor enforcement tax from 8% to 16%.

The most surprising part of his education budget proposals is to save money by consolidating all school districts into one state-wide health insurance plan. He says this was a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study from last year. It was, but A&M was clear that this should not be done until there was a thorough examination of the implications for districts and employees.

There is a study being conducted, as we speak, by the Division of the Legislative Post Audit to do just that. That study is due in March. It seems the Governor is jumping the gun on this one!

None of these proposals are done deals. The presentation has not been met with particular enthusiasm in a legislature tired of budget gimmicks and focused on how to solve the long term mess brought about by the Governor’s tax policy.

We’ll keep you posted on how all of this proceeds. It will all take some time.

K-12 Budget Committee Hears from Dale Dennis

Guru Emeritus of School Finance, Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis briefed the K-12 Education Budget Committee on the reality of school funding in Kansas – past history and present experience.

True to his word in convening his committee, Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) is providing the best resources to educate his committee members on the challenge of school finance before launching into the design of our next system.

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Less Health Care, More KPERS Delays, and Increased Student Debt

May 19, 2016 by

BrownbackLaughHow do you protect irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans?

You make the poor, children, public employees, and college students pay for them.

That’s what Governor Brownback has done with his latest move to balance a budget destroyed by his reckless tax cuts.

As state revenue continues to crater, the Legislature caved in to Brownback and refused to even talk about an “option 4” – restoring the income tax. Instead they punted to Brownback allowing him to decide what was important in Kansas. And what is important? Protecting his failed tax policy.

Most alarming to educators is Brownback’s $30 million cut to university funding. The bulk of the cut comes directly out of university budgets ($23 million) with another $7 million coming from the Board of Regents budget.

Making up for the cuts, universities will likely have to increase tuition rates. It’s not lost on those of us who have followed the budget debate this year that the legislature repealed a tuition increase cap they enacted just a year earlier specifically to allow bigger tuition hikes.

So, in order to protect a failed “march to zero” income tax policy, our students will either be priced out of a university education or saddled with additional debt.

Brownback also cut another $3 million from the Children’s Cabinet and delayed an additional $100 million in contributions to KPERS. $38 million was taken from KanCare – the state’s Medicaid program which serves the poor.

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reported that the Governor, in announcing the cuts, said, “The three main drivers of budget growth continue to be education, Medicaid and KPERS.” And so, this time around, he took money away from those three areas. He is also quick to assert that he has “protected” K-12 funding at a time when the Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on K-12 funding equity and then take up adequacy.

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