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.