Kansas budget

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

When Rep. Jim Ward read the latest lawsuit brought by Kansas officials against the Affordable Care Act, the Wichita Democrat thought the federal action at the center of the suit sounded familiar.

“My first thought was, ‘Wait a minute, didn’t we just do this about four months ago?’” Ward said, referring to the Legislature increasing a tax on health plans.  “And why is one better than the other?”

Republican state leaders who initiated the lawsuit say it’s an essential part of their ongoing fight against federal overreach by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas budget shortfalls are increasing concerns that the Legislature may divert money from a $271 million fund used to cushion the cost of medical malpractice claims.

Such a move could increase health care costs if providers were forced to pay more into the fund to replenish it.

The Health Care Stabilization Fund oversight committee decided Wednesday to include language in its annual report urging lawmakers not to sweep money from the fund.

KHI News Service file photo

Over the past year, Kansas has changed its state employee health plan so employees shoulder more of the cost burden while the cash-strapped state pays less.

State officials say the changes correct imbalances within the plan and shore up a reserve fund for the future.

But Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees labor union, said the cost shift will be hard to bear for employees who haven’t had an across-the-board pay raise since 2009.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

One of the top Republicans in the Kansas Senate says it’s time to fix the causes of the state’s ongoing budget problems.

During an appearance on the KCUR podcast Statehouse Blend, Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said recurring budget shortfalls have convinced him that the income tax cuts the Legislature passed in 2012 aren’t working.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Once upon a time Kansas was a national leader in public health. Credit largely goes to Dr. Samuel Crumbine, who early in the 20th century created and led what is now the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

He convinced Kansans to stop spitting on sidewalks. And he pushed state lawmakers to pass food purity laws and to ban the public drinking cup. 

But times have changed.

Tax collections in Kansas were $30 million below estimates for the month of August. The state’s tax revenues were hurt by large tax refunds given to companies as part of economic development programs. Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan says there were bright spots in other areas of the tax numbers and the report would have looked significantly better without the large refunds.

Kansas Representative Gene Suellentrop is a supporter of the Kansas budget experiment known as the "march to zero" for income taxes. In his nephew's social circles, on the east coast, that position is hard to understand. So the nephew decided to immerse himself in his uncle's world, just as a legislative session turned upside-down by budget debates got underway.


Kansas lawmakers have begun working on a proposal to study the state’s government for efficiency. The state will hire a firm to comb through and evaluate how Kansas spends money.

Kansas lawmakers included $3 million in the budget to pay for the study. Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman is leading a group drawing up the contract documents. The hope is an outside firm could scour state government in a way that lawmakers can’t.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration on Thursday announced $63 million in changes to the state budget.

Much of that comes from increases in federal aid, cost-cutting measures and some services costing less than initially projected. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, outlined in a Statehouse news conference.

The biggest single change — $17.6 million — comes from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides health coverage to children in low-income families.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says his administration will unveil $50 million in state budget cuts this week. The cuts are required as part of a bill passed in the Legislature this year.

When Kansas lawmakers were working to pass a final tax deal, they added a clause requiring the $50 million cut from the budget as a way to help get conservative Republicans on board. When asked last week if Kansas could cut another $50 million without layoffs or hurting state services, Brownback didn’t have much to say.

Courtesy photo / Shawnee Mission School District

The Shawnee Mission School District superintendent says it's "highly likely" that Kansas state aid will come in below what's budgeted this year and the district will be forced to tap into budget reserves.

Dr. Jim Hinson told the Board of Education at Thursday night's regular meeting that he's trying to prepare for reductions in the block grant funding passed last session by the Legislature.

"Based on what we know at this time we have great concern about the state's ability to fund the formula that's in place," Hinson says.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Since 2000, money that was supposed to be used primarily for early childhood development in Kansas has been repeatedly raided by the Legislature to help balance the state's budget. Now, says Kansas Action for Children in a report released Wednesday, the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) Fund will be almost depleted in two years.

State tax receipts for June totaled $22.5 million less than expected, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported Tuesday.

Both individual income tax and sales tax receipts failed to meet projections.

Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan tried to put the numbers in a positive light, saying that overall tax receipts were $69.9 million higher than the previous year and “were less than 1 percent below estimates” for the current budget year.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A controversial restriction on local property tax revenue in the recently passed Kansas tax bill could have implications for county health departments.

Republican legislators inserted the property tax “lid” into the $400 million tax bill as a sweetener for colleagues who were loath to vote for a tax increase. It requires local governments to get voter approval to take in any tax revenue above the rate of inflation that comes from increased property values.

Kansas already had the ninth-most regressive tax system in the nation, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The tax increase signed last week by Gov. Sam Brownback to balance the budget and end the longest legislative session in state history will make the system less fair to low- and middle-income Kansans, said Matt Gardner, executive director of the nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Usually the Kansas Board of Regents has weeks to ponder and discuss how much students will pay in tuition and fees at its six universities. But the 113 day Kansas legislative session has forced those discussions into less than 36 hours.

Higher education leaders in the state agreed to a 3.6 percent tuition cap with lawmakers in exchange for not cutting other state funding to universities.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

When the 2015 legislative session started in January, public health advocates had reason to be optimistic they could reach some of their most ambitious goals.

The Kansas Hospital Association was ramping up efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to about 100,000 uninsured Kansans with the political implications of the 2014 election over.

Newly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed to almost triple the state cigarette tax — a prospect that won quick support from groups that fight cancer and heart disease.

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. 

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office will work to identify $50 million in budget cuts mandated by the Legislature for the upcoming fiscal year, although future restoration of those reductions could be constrained by automatic income tax cuts.

Brownback addressed reporters Tuesday in a news conference recapping the historically long session that ended Friday.

The governor acknowledged that the 113-day session was difficult for everyone involved and that many legislators did not want to vote for the tax bill that closed a $400 million budget gap.

After a record-breaking 113 days, the Kansas legislature finally passed a budget and tax deal. On this edition of Up To Date, we analyze the session and take a look at what it was like to participate in, and cover, the  2015 assembly. 

File photo

It’s over.

Republican legislators from the House and Senate mustered just enough votes to pass a $400 million tax increase Friday and end the historic 2015 session.

The session traditionally lasts 90 days. Friday was the 113th, as both chambers struggled to get Republican supermajorities to approve a substantial tax hike.

The final plan raises the state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. Senators ultimately gave up on a quest to tax groceries at a lower rate.

After two days of legislative maneuvering and more than four hours of members sitting in their chairs watching a voting board, the House denied another tax plan Thursday morning.

The possibility of across-the-board budget cuts to state entities — including hospitals for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities — became more tangible as factions within the House rejected a sales tax-heavy plan to close the last half of an $800 million structural deficit.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The legislator leading a faction of Kansas House members pushing to reinstate taxes on business owners exempted by the 2012 tax cut law has given up the battle.

Rep. Mark Hutton, a conservative Republican businessman from Wichita, said Wednesday that a veto threat from Gov. Sam Brownback and other considerations meant that continuing the fight would make it more likely that lawmakers would go home without balancing the budget, forcing Brownback to make across-the-board spending cuts to erase a projected deficit of roughly $400 million.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Rep. John Ewy, a Republican from Jetmore, is now 66 and has spent most of his life in the area around Larned State Hospital, one of two public facilities for Kansans with severe mental illness.

“It used to be the place to work,” Ewy said. “Now it’s the place to work if you can’t find anything else.”

The hospital employs about 1,000 people when fully staffed, Ewy said, which ranks it with the cattle yards in Dodge City and Garden City among the biggest employers in southwest Kansas.

Tax conference committees will go back to the negotiating table Friday after the House resoundingly rejected a plan that suspended Gov. Sam Brownback’s “glide path to zero” income tax but did not substantially roll back a business tax exemption that was part of a 2012 tax bill Brownback signed.

The bill that made it to the House floor on Day 105 of the traditionally 90-day session relied largely on sales tax increases for the $406 million in new tax revenue needed to finish closing an almost $800 million structural deficit in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

A spokeswoman for the University of Kansas Medical Center said Thursday the institution will try to protect student education, time-sensitive research and clinical care as the possibility of furloughs approach.

Natalie Lutz, the medical center’s director of communications, said employees of the state’s only medical school will receive notifications by noon Friday telling them whether they have been deemed “nonessential” and are therefore vulnerable to furlough if state lawmakers don’t pass a budget by midnight Saturday.

As the Kansas legislature nears an all-time record for longest session in Kansas history, Up To Date brings you the latest on the budget impasse and the threat of possible furloughs. 


Wikimedia Commons

As the Kansas Legislature fights over how to balance the budget that kicks in at the end of the month, the state is preparing for possible employee furloughs.

On Wednesday, the University of Kansas sent an email to all employees outlining how the furloughs will be done and tips on how workers can file for unemployment insurance. Kansas State University sent a similar email to its staff Tuesday.

Kansas hospitals were surprised by a plan that surfaced Sunday night to solve the state budget crisis by ending a sales tax exemption for some nonprofit organizations.

The Senate voted down the plan 30-9 after several hours of debate. But with the state facing a budget gap of nearly $800 million and the Legislature looking for $400 million in new taxes, there’s a chance lawmakers could take another look at it.

Chad Austin, vice president of government relations for the Kansas Hospital Association, said 118 of the state’s 127 hospitals are nonprofits.

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.

Editor’s note: A fractured Kansas Legislature is working overtime to produce a balanced state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. This story attempts to explain the reasons lawmakers are on the brink of a constitutional crisis. KHI News Service, a partner of KCUR-based Heartland Health Monitor, will continue to monitor events and update them as necessary.