Sam Brownback

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An effort to roll back a controversial business tax exemption is among the budget-balancing proposals that lawmakers will take up in the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Several key Republicans, including many self-described conservatives who voted for Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts in 2012, are openly supporting bills to either reduce or eliminate the exemption as legislators return Wednesday to the Statehouse to wrap up the session.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Estimates for Kansas tax collections were ratcheted down sharply Wednesday. The state’s projected revenues dropped by a quarter billion dollars over the next year-and-a-half. That leaves Kansas with a budget deficit, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing plans for erasing the shortfall.

Kansas will need to find $140 million in the current fiscal year to get out of the red. Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will need another $151 million in cuts or new revenue. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, laid out three options for filling the hole.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A handful of university economists and state officials will meet Wednesday behind closed doors in Topeka to revise their estimate of how much tax revenue Kansas will collect over the next year. 

It’s a process the state has used since the late 1970s for budgeting purposes. But a string of missed estimates in recent years has made it controversial.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas has fewer low-income families receiving cash assistance than at any time in the last decade, but less than 10 percent are recorded as leaving the program because they found jobs.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is offering to stop spending state tax incentives to lure Missouri businesses across the state line but only if the Missouri General Assembly amends an offer to stop using tax breaks to poach Kansas jobs. Missouri extended the compromise two years ago, contingent on Kansas reciprocating.

Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, says what's been called an economic border war has been extremely wasteful.

“We’re using our incentives to move existing jobs, rather than trying to compete for new jobs,” says Hall.

Jennifer Morrow / Creative Commons-Flickr

This story was updated at 3:39 p.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeals court decision finding that the Kansas Constitution creates “a fundamental right to abortion.”

The decision by the high court was expected after the Kansas Court of Appeals, in an evenly divided vote, upheld a trial judge’s decision to block a Kansas law banning the second-trimester abortion method known as “dilation and evacuation.”

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Editor’s note: A backlog of Medicaid applications has caused financial strain for nursing homes and put thousands of Kansans at risk for loss of medical care. State officials trace the beginnings of the backlog to a computer system switch.

Matt Hodapp / Heartland Health Monitor

As the U.S. Supreme Court considers another major abortion case, Planned Parenthood remains in the line of fire in Kansas. The Brownback administration has accused the organization of selling fetal parts for profit and has sought to cut off its Medicaid funding. 

 

Kansas Board of Regents

The news that Kansas came up $54 million short of revenue projections in February was bad enough. But a few minutes after the Department of Revenue released the report, the news got worse.

In a statement posted to his official website, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was immediately cutting $17 million from the state Board of Regents budget, a 3 percent cut to the state's six biggest institutions of higher learning.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback made his case Thursday for why Kansas food stamp reforms should be a national welfare-to-work model, even though the study he used to support his claim showed almost 80 percent of Kansans affected remained in poverty.

It’s hard to keep up with Kansas government these days. From balancing the budget, to school finance formula and recent "communist" name-calling, Up To Date checks in with statehouse reporters to try and make sense of it all.

Guests:

  • Bryan Lowry is the statehouse reporter for The Wichita Eagle. 
  • Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Kansas Public Radio.

Governor Sam Brownback laid out his legislative goals during the 2016 State of the State Address Tuesday night. He took the president to task and touched on high-profile state issues like education spending. 

Brownback laid the groundwork in his speech by referencing what he and lawmakers had done in Kansas in recent years. He touted tax policy, the unemployment rate and job growth.

“Kansans are finding good jobs right here at home. Working together, we’ve created an economic environment where new filings for new businesses have increased by 15 percent,” said Brownback.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

Did Kansas lawmakers know about the state's controversial decision to lift the borrowing limit for the Department of Transportation? 

This PowerPoint slide seems to suggest they did, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle along with transportation insiders whom KCUR has talked to all say they were surprised to see KDOT borrowing at record levels in December. 

neetalparekh / Flickr--CC

Late this week, Kansans got two interesting pieces of economic data within 24 hours of each other. Let's start with the second: the state's latest jobs report for November.

Gov. Sam Brownback certainly liked what it had to say, based on a Tweet he sent out Friday morning. 

A Look At How Refugees Are Resettled In Kansas City

Nov 30, 2015
Julie Denesha / KCUR

After the attacks in Paris, many governors across the nation took a stance on opening their borders to refugees, particularly refugees from Syria. In the Kansas City area, Governors Sam Brownback and Jay Nixon weighed in on both sides of the issue.

 

“It is imperative that we take action where the White House has not. KS agencies will not assist in relocating Syrian refugees,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wrote on Twitter .

 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas tax revenues are plummeting and that may bode poorly for the future of the state's highway system.

Tax revenue has come in $57 million below estimates since the fiscal year began in July, leading the Brownback Administration to sweep money from different places to balance the budget. The biggest hit was taken by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

You can talk about expansion projects, preservation projects and economic development around transportation, but for many, what’s happening to KDOT funding right now boils down to one thing.

It is still unknown what the impact of the landmark Gannon school finance case will be, since the Kansas Supreme Court won't ultimately decide on it until sometime next year. 

What is clearer now, though, is the state's stance on what role the Court should play in determining funding for Kansas public education. In short, the state thinks the Court has no role. Briefs filed in Gannon Monday by the state essentially tell the Court to stay out of its legislative business. 

Andy Marso/KHI News

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday convened a new Governor’s Social Services Policy Council for the first time Wednesday in the luxury suites area at Sporting Park, the Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Sporting Kansas City soccer team.

At the end of the hourlong meeting, the council decided to focus on obtaining data about criminal recidivism and the breakdown of the family structure.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If President Obama closes the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, the suspected terrorists who are housed there might be transferred to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has spoken out against that idea. Thursday, he brought that message to Leavenworth and heard from the people who would be most directly affected: local residents.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to divert federal funding away from a health insurance program is drawing sharp criticism from children’s advocates.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president of Kansas Action for Children, says the governor is shortchanging Kansas families who depend on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director believes Kansas officials needs to study how they estimate future state tax collections. The comments were made just before new July revenue numbers came in below the mark.

Over the last year, Kansas tax collections have come up short of the estimates 10 times, and beat the estimates twice. Some of the misses were small, but four times over the last year the state’s monthly tax collections were at least $20 million below expectations.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, helps create the estimates.

Kansas legislators passed a law this year that says that if a court strikes down a 2014 law that removed some powers from the state Supreme Court, the judiciary will lose funding. On this edition of Up To Date, we examine the ensuing battle being waged between the Kansas Judiciary and the executive and legislative branches. 

Guests: 

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is defending recent moves to raise sales and cigarette taxes in order to balance a state budget hit hard by the governor’s income tax cuts. Brownback told KCUR's Steve Kraske that critics—including Democrats in the statehouse—do not see the big picture.

Kraske: Democrats are out today saying that the fact that you won't acknowledge this is a tax increase, what happened in the last session, is a sign that you’re living in a dream world. What do you say to that?

Brownback: Well, I wish they’d put forward proposals they supported. The Democrats didn’t put forward a single proposal in this legislative session that could be debated, the only thing they wanted to see happen was [that] everything fail, just come crashing down. So if they’re not willing to put forward proposals, I really don’t think they have much credibility to criticize.

KHI News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s office said Wednesday it had received word from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that no charges will be filed after an investigation into loans made to the governor’s re-election campaign.

The governor released a joint statement along with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon who was also at the center of the probe.

“We have been advised by legal counsel that the United States Attorney’s office has concluded an investigation regarding campaign finance matters, and no charges are to be filed,” the statement read. 

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback maintains that the revenue enhancement package just adopted in Topeka, which has been described as the largest tax increase in Kansas history, should not be considered a tax increase. On this edition of Up To Date, Steve Kraske has a one-on-one with the governor about the 2015 legislative session's contentious tax debate. 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, state and local officials as well as the Secretaries of both Agriculture and Homeland Security smiled, shook hands, even hugged as they came together for the latest in a series of ceremonial groundbreakings for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Manhattan, Kansas facility has been in the works for 16 years, said Sen. Pat Roberts, the grandfather of the project, who first pushed for greater food and agriculture safety with Kansas State University officials in 1999.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

It's a common problem for mail order pharmacies such as Overland Park-based OptumRX – patients will return prescription drugs, unopened.

"Let's say when their physician changed their prescription, they forgot to to notify us that the original cycle of medications they were on needed to change," says Tim Wicks, CEO of OptumRX.

Usually, those returned prescriptions end up in the trash.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed a law that bans dilation and evacuation (D&E), a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

The law, titled the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, redefines "dilation and evacuation" as "dismemberment." Language in the law says the fetus is pulled apart limb by limb and allowed to bleed to death before being removed from the pregnant woman's body. 

A Kansas Senate committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to study the governor’s choice to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Gov. Sam Brownback has picked Topeka attorney Kathryn Gardner to fill the open seat.

During the hearing, senators will hear from any supporters and opponents of Gardner’s nomination. Then, senators will have a chance to pepper Gardner with questions about her experience and qualifications.

When Brownback announced that Gardner would be his pick, he said she meets the standards Kansans set for judges.

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