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.

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