TOPEKA – Senator Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, today officially filed for re-election to the 3rd Senate District, which includes portions of Douglas and Leavenworth counties. He is completing his second term in the Kansas Senate. Holland previously served three terms in the Kansas House of Representatives before being elected to the Kansas Senate in 2008.

 

“As a pragmatic, common-sense voice of reason in the Kansas Legislature, I have relentlessly fought to protect the needs and values of the people of the Third District against the radical policies of Governor Brownback,” said Holland. “The governor and his legislative allies have made Kansas’ tax structure more burdensome to the middle class, weakened our K-12 schools and higher institutions of learning, devastated social service programs and cannibalized investments in economic infrastructure, particularly transportation.”

 

As the Ranking Member on the Assessment and Taxation Committee, Senator Holland fought against Governor Brownback’s 2012 and 2013 legislation that created massive income tax breaks for big businesses and the wealthy, jeopardizing the state budget. “Kansas has a sales and property tax problem, not an income tax problem,” said Holland. “To achieve real, sustainable solutions, Kansas needs leaders who will put the needs of their constituents ahead of those of the special interest groups and major political donors, like Charles and David Koch.”

 

Holland also serves as the Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee and as a member on the Interstate Cooperation Committee, the Federal and State Affairs Committee, and the Joint Committee on Information Technology. Holland is president of Holland Technologies Inc., an information technology consulting firm. He and his wife, Barbara, have been married for over 35 years and have four children. Holland ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2010.

The Kansas Legislature passed yet another fiscally irresponsible budget. I voted against it because it does not adequately fund K-12 education, higher education and other vital programs (in large part due to the Governor’s disastrous 2012 income tax cuts). It also leaves a $290 million hole to fill at the Governor’s discretion.

 

Specifically, the budget relies on the governor to delay a $96 million payment to the state employees’ pension system (KPERS) for the remainder of the fiscal year. This payment would then have to be made next year. If we can’t afford to make one payment this year, how can we expect to be able to make two payments next year? Additionally, the budget depends on a transfer of $185 million from the highway fund. This further depletes the fund and guarantees delayed projects, including US Highway 69 in Southeast Kansas – a project specifically promised during the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign. This also sacrifices jobs and hinders economic development. Finally, the governor would need to cut nearly $92 million from the budgets of Executive Branch agencies. This includes agencies such as the Department of Children and Families and the Department on Aging and Disability Services.

 

The only good thing about the budget is that it spared the Children’s Initiative Fund, commonly discussed in the media as the tobacco settlement fund. The money allocated to the CIF is used for early childhood education programs. One of the governor’s initial proposals would have gutted this fund to help fill the budget hole.  Even after the delayed payment, the highway fund transfer, and the cuts, the state is left with a meager ending balance. A few months of revenue shortfalls would wipe it out, and the state would be facing even more cuts. This is no way to run our state!

 

This week the House and Senate approved a joint budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal years. As passed, the state would have an ending balance of $32 million for 2016 and $112 million in 2017. When including the year-to-date shortfalls, the ending balances are $6 million in 2016 and $86 million in 2017. That assumes we meet revenue expectations the next four months and the Legislature does not fulfill its constitutional obligation to equitably fund schools as the court ordered. This is a far cry from the $470 million ending balance required by law.

 

Some positive items in the budget include:

 Preventing the state from privatizing Osawatomie and Larned State Hospitals and providing additional funding for staff.

 Keeping the Children’s Initiative Fund out of the state general fund and in a separate fund where it can be better protected.

 Restoring funding for local safety net health clinics to 2016 levels rather than cutting them.

 Restoring a debt service limitation of 19% on the State Highway Fund rather than the unlimited bonding allowed last session.

 

Because the budget spends more than we take in, more cuts and transfers had to be made, including:

 Giving the Governor the option to not make the remaining state’s KPERS payments for this fiscal year. The cap is $100 million. Should this KPERS committed money be diverted to plug the budget shortfall, the Governor is required to pay back this money by September 30 – with interest. However, due to the budget shortfall the money will likely be taken from KDOT. We have a responsibility to honor our financial commitment to state employees. Unfortunately this provision continues to negate this obligation.

 Removing protections for the Parents as Teachers program which will likely make it income means tested, removing families from the program.

 Increasing the amount of money that can be borrowed through bonding based on the state general fund budget to 4%.

 Selling off our Kansas Bioscience Authority assets.

 
I voted “no” on this budget as it does nothing to move Kansas forward. We have blown the checking account, drained our savings, emptied the kids’ piggy bank, and now we’re maxing out the credit cards. No well-managed business would run its affairs this way, and the state shouldn’t, either.

Paid for by Tom Holland for Kansas Senate
Kris Marsh, Treasurer