Today, in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, we paraphrase!

Mar 2, 2016 by

promo-nea-raa

I meant what I said and I said what I meant,

And a governor is rigid one hundred percent!

As state revenues continue to fall, Governor Brownback wields his ax and chops away at the Regents. Almost immediately after the announcement that tax collections came in more than $53 million below expectations, Brownback cut $17 million out of the Regents budget. That’s $17 million that Kansas universities lose over the next four months – the last months of the fiscal year.

In a press conference, Brownback also announced that he would not accept any change in the exemption from income taxes enjoyed by more than 330,000 Kansas businesses. The Governor continues to say his reckless tax cuts are helping Kansas grow despite revenues that have declined in nearly every month since the cuts took effect.

To make ends meet, the state has taken millions out of the highway fund, swept fees from fee-funded agencies, and sold bonds to find money. The budget passed by the legislature recently even gives the Governor permission to delay payments to KPERS in an effort to make the budget balance on paper.

No plans have yet been revealed as to how the legislature is intending to balance the budget but one assumes the Governor will go ahead with the delay to KPERS, the legislature will dive as deeply as possible into the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Report, and cuts will be made to agencies. There are already whispers under the dome about possible cuts to education. Education, after all, is the largest portion of the budget.

With the Governor continuing to insist that there will be no changes to his tax plans, we are left wondering if a show-down might be in the future. The Governor is not up for re-election and in fact cannot run for governor again but every Senator and Representative will be on the campaign trail as soon as the session ends. Brownback’s approval ratings are at historic lows. It will be interesting to see if more legislators will be willing to distance themselves from his policies just before hitting the campaign trail.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”           The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Help a child foster a love of reading.  Take the Read Across America Pledge Here:  http://www.readacrossamerica.org/

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K-12 Report Tabled and They’re Back Next Week!

Jan 5, 2016 by

K-12 Committee Draft Report Tabled!

The K-12 Student Success Committee met again this morning for all of 30 minutes to consider the draft report written by Chairman Highland.

Almost immediately, Rep. Ron Ryckman, Jr. (R-Olathe) moved to table the report to a future meeting. His motion was seconded by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover). Ryckman’s motion would send the draft back to be revised by Legislative Research staff to better reflect the input received by the committee and the discussion they had. It is common practice for Research staff to assist in writing such reports.

Buzz under the dome was that the report reflected the hand of KPI’s Dave Trabert. Some things in the report were alarming such as provisions dealing with special education and at-risk funding. There were a number of “accountability” recommendations as well that raised concerns.

So for now, all of the materials and meeting minutes will go to staff who will try to assemble a new draft.

Click here to read the report that was tabled today.

 

2016 Legislative Session Will Convene Next Monday!

January 11 marks the start of the 2016 Legislative Session. The Governor will deliver his State of the State Address on Tuesday, January 12.

With continuing drops in revenue thanks to the Governor’s reckless tax cuts of 2012 and 2013 and in particular the big drop experienced in December, it will be interesting to hear if he has any ideas for balancing the budget this year and in the coming year.

We won’t get a look at the Governor’s budget proposal until later.

In preparation for the session, we urge all supporters of public education in Kansas to gear up for a battle! Click below to access the tools you’ll need to stay informed and take action.

Click here for the KNEA Advocacy Toolbox!
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Revenue continuing to collapse!

Apr 21, 2015 by

Brownback tax policy is NOT working!

In what’s become a routine event, the latest revenue estimates for Kansas were released yesterday and the news was bad.

Estimates were once again ratcheted down – this time by a whopping $98.1 million for FY 2016 and another $100.8 million for FY 2017.

And as the budget hole continues to grow, Governor Brownback and his Budget Director Shawn Sullivan are making it clear that they have no intention of reversing the reckless tax plan passed in 2012.

Legislative leaders already had a big budget hole to fill (about $200 million) in order to meet the budget they crafted before the break. That hole doubles with this estimate. Brownback had proposed about $210 million in tax increases (slowing the reductions in income tax cuts and raising taxes on tobacco and liquor). It is clear now that, even if his allies in the legislature went along with this plan (and they show no intentions of doing so), the budget would require an additional $200 million in tax increases or budget cuts to balance.

In remarks after the release of the estimates, Speaker Ray Merrick and House Tax Chair Marvin Kleeb both implied that K-12 cuts were off the table. Of course, K-12 combined with medicaid and other social service programs makes up about 70% of the budget so it is hard to imagine how the remaining state programs could absorb a cut of that magnitude.

Democratic Senate Leader Anthony Hensley put it best when he said, “These numbers mean that the budget will be unfairly balanced by raising taxes on low and middle income Kansans while protecting wealthy Kansans who benefit from Brownback’s income tax cuts.”

Even before these grim numbers came in, school districts have been challenged this year as the Governor’s block grant school funding plan has cut revenue to most school districts. A number of school districts have made decisions to cut the school year short to save money. Several have applied for emergency aid from the block grant bill’s special “emergency fund.” Skyline Schools in Pratt have asked for money just to meet payroll after being hit with a number of emergencies that dried up their savings including the failure of their HVAC system.

Your legislators are home until April 29 when they return for the wrap-up session. This would be a great time to visit with them and ask what actions they are willing to take to save Kansas from collapse and to protect K-12 and higher education, roads and highways, public safety, and the social service safety net.

We are beyond tinkering with the Governor’s tax wreck. It’s time to reverse the reckless income tax cuts put in place in 2012.

You can see the details of the latest revenue collapse by clicking here.

The Lawrence Journal-World has a good article on the release of the estimates including a chart showing revenue collection changes over time. Click here.

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Coalition Calls for Reversal of Income Tax Cuts

Apr 1, 2015 by

Coalition calls for restoration of income tax cuts

The RevUp Kansas Coalition held a press event today to call upon the Legislature to restore the state’s devastated revenue stream and repeal the reckless income tax cuts championed by Governor Brownback and passed by the Legislature in 2012.

RevUp Kansas consists of more than 30 organizations that serve Kansans and Kansas Communities. KNEA is a member of the coalition.

The event today was attended by about 100 Kansas citizens and covered by the press corps.

Annie McKay, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, opened the event. She was followed by Duane Goossen, a Senior Fellow at the KCEG. Goossen, who served as Budget Director for Republican Governor Bill Graves and Democratic Governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, gave an overview of the harmful effects of Governor Brownback’s so-called “real live experiment.”

Following Goossen were:

  • Shannon Cotsoradis, Kansas Action for Children President/CEO
  • Sister Therese Bangert, the EITC Coalition
  • Lynn Stephan, Women for Kansas Leadership Team
  • Sheryl Spalding, MainStream Coalition Board President
  • Mark Farr, Kansas NEA President
  • Vicki Buening, Kansas Citizens for the Arts
  • Bernie Koch, Kansas Economic Progress Council Executive Director
  • Gary Brunk, RevUp KS member

You can join the RevUp message by visiting www.revupkansas.com. You can also like RevUpKansas on Facebook.


What’s happening?

That’s a question many people have as we head for the end of the regular session.

Drop dead day is scheduled for Friday, April 3 but both chambers have indicated they hope to be done tomorrow so legislators can go home for Good Friday.

The House has not debated any bills on general orders this week and the Senate has handled only a few. Tomorrow might be like breaking a log jam. Or not.

There are lots of rumors under the dome about what is inspiring this quiet week but leadership is certainly not sharing their thinking publicly (or at least with us). It seems certain now that budget and revenue decisions will be put off until the wrap-up session beginning April 29.

If the Legislature breaks Thursday, they will be home through April 28.

 

 

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Brownback cuts more from education

Feb 5, 2015 by

Governor cuts $44.5 million from education for this year!

Responding to more bad news about the impact of his tax cuts, Governor Brownback has issued additional cuts in an effort to balance the budget. Month after month of declining tax receipts continue to pressure the ability of the state to pay the bills and, unlike the federal government, the state cannot run a deficit.

The latest cuts are hitting directly at education with a 2% cut to higher education and a 1.5% cut to K-12 education to take effect on March 7. The combined cuts total $44.5 million.

The House had recently passed a bill intended to deal with the initial deficit but in January revenue continued to drop necessitating the cuts announced by the Governor today. The Senate is debating that bill today.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has been debating a change in the calculation of the Local Option Budget (LOB) that would cut K-12 funding by $39 million in the current year and the prior allotments included reductions in state payments to KPERS.

The simple fact of the matter is that the tax cuts demanded by Governor Brownback and passed by the Legislature have decimated the state’s revenue stream. The Kansas economy is lagging most other states including our neighbors, revenue collections continue to come in below expectations, and still the Legislature is hesitant to address the underlying problem of unsustainable tax cuts.

Tragedy 

Very sad news came out of Wichita today. Rep. Dennis Hedke’s wife, Annette, was tragically killed when she was struck by a vehicle in a parking lot after falling. Rep. Hedke is in his third term in the Kansas House. He serves as a member of the House Education Committee and as Chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee.

We ask that everyone keep Rep. Hedke and his family in their thoughts and prayers at this time.

Mark Desetti, Director of Political Advocacy & Government Relations
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