Monthly Archives: February 2016

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.

Kansas has a tradition of strong public education, with major decisions made by locally elected boards of education. Now, in the name of “efficiency and competition”, our public school system is again under attack. Last week the House Education Committee heard three bills designed to weaken funding and remove local control.

 
They were:

 HB 2486 would require state approval for any bond issue a school district wants for capital projects. I understand the need for the state to get control of this expense, but this bill is not the right mechanism.

 HB 2457 expands the program implemented last year to provide funding for private schools. The bill allows up to $12.5 million in tax credits for donations to private schools that have no standards or qualifications required of them. As first pitched as a way to allow low-income students to go to private schools, it is now clear the intent is to subsidize private and parochial schools with tax dollars.

 HB 2504 requires the forced consolidation of Kansas school districts. In counties with fewer than 10,000 students, all districts in the county would be combined into one. In counties with more than 10,000 students, districts with fewer than 1,500 students would have to combine with another district. Under the bill the State would go from 286 districts down to about 132. I oppose this bill as the savings are questionable and it would be devastating to rural communities, causing loss of jobs and local control.

 
I stand for strong public schools and will oppose these and similar measures as they are sure to arise.

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