Kansas budget

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas lawmakers struggled over the weekend working late nights trying to craft a budget solution. Ultimately, they approved a plan in the early hours of Monday morning.

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, reporters dissect what we've seen so far and what we can expect as the Kansas Legislative session heads to a close. 

Guests:

KHI News Service file photo

The Kansas House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.

A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.

File photo

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.

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.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Statehouse is relatively quiet these days. Only the arrival of the occasional busload of school children disturbs the calm.

That will change when lawmakers return April 27 to face what is expected to be more bad news about the budget.

Legislative leaders are hoping to finish their wrap-up session in a matter of days. But many involved in the process say that could be wishful thinking given a lack of consensus on how to balance the state budget in the face of continuing revenue shortfalls.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Attempts by Kansas lawmakers to find a finance solution that would equitably fund schools have thus far failed in the Legislature.

Kansas Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend podcast this weekend to discuss the Legislature's burden in coming up with a new school funding plan.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated with additional quotes at 11:17 a.m.

Legislative leaders often use their authority over committee assignments and other perks to reward loyalty and punish insubordination.

But rarely are punishments meted out as publicly as they were Tuesday in the Kansas House.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Republican from Stilwell, publicly stripped fellow Republican John Rubin of his chairmanship of the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee just minutes before the House adjourned for the day.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

Last month, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported that tax receipts fell roughly $54 million short of projections in February, a far worse performance than most anyone expected. That would have left the state with a projected $47 million hole, but Gov. Sam Brownback ordered $17 million in cuts, or 3 percent, to the state’s six Regents universities, lowering the deficit to about $30 million.

Heartland Health Monitor

No one speaking Tuesday to the Senate Ways and Means Committee argued the Legislature could be trusted to direct funds to their intended purpose.

The only question was what arrangement would make it least likely that lawmakers would use funds for children’s programs, highways and other designated purpose instead to plug holes in the state general fund budget.

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.
Sam Zeff / KCUR

There's no doubt statewide law enforcement agencies in Kansas are hurting. But there is some movement in the state Legislature, albeit modest, to help both agencies.

The Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved two new vehicle registration surcharges that will help bolster the budgets of the Highway Patrol and Law Enforcement Train Center in Hutchinson.

The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) is 80 troopers below strength even after graduating a new class in December. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) is short 20 agents and says it has been turning down 20 percent of felony cases referred by local sheriffs and police departments.

The Senate bill would tack on an extra $3.25 to the registration fee for all vehicles. The bill would send $2 to the KHP and $1.25 to the training center. In all, the bill could generate $3.4 million a year.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas Rep. James Todd (R-Overland Park) provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss education funding, judicial appointments, and the budget.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas Rep. James Todd (R-Overland Park) provides an insider perspective on the Kansas Legislature as we discuss education funding, judicial appointments, and the budget.

Guests:

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has given lawmakers a budget that balances on paper.

But it remains to be seen whether legislators will agree to the complex formula of spending reductions, budget transfers and administrative changes that Brownback is proposing to erase a projected $436 million shortfall in the budget year that begins July 1.

Lobbyists representing several groups and causes are lining up in opposition to many of the changes.

For this 50th episode, we recorded Statehouse Blend live in front of a studio audience at Westport Flea Market. We explore the most pressing issues of 2016 with KCUR's Sam Zeff and Steve Kraske, and with guests Republican Rep. John Rubin and Democratic Rep. John Wilson.

Guests:

  • John Rubin, Representative from District 014, Kansas Legislature
  • John Wilson, Representative from, Kansas Legislature 
  • Steve Kraske, Host of Up To Date, KCUR
Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A tentative plan to save Kansas government more than $2 billion over five years relies heavily on proposed changes to the state employee health plan and Medicaid.

The report, written by the New York-based consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal under a $2.6 million contract with the state, includes 105 recommendations for “achieving major cost savings.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR

  We already know that the budget problems in Kansas are eating into some core functions of government.

The state will have to postpone maintenance work on hundreds of miles of highways. And those highways are a little less safe because the Kansas Highway Patrol is at least 75 troopers short of full strength.

But budget problems for state law enforcement run even deeper.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

Some lawmakers in Topeka have alleged a backroom deal was made without debate when the Kansas budget passed last session temporarily removed limits on how much the Kansas Department of Transportation can borrow. But the chairman of the Kansas House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., from Olathe, says that’s untrue.

KDOT’s total bond debt had for years been capped at 18 percent of the department’s annual revenue. But, a provision in the budget bill passed in June removed that limit for two years.

As legislators go back to work in Kansas this month, there’s one thing on everyone’s mind—the budget. Tax cuts have left the state scrambling to find enough money to cover its programs. We discuss that and how President Obama's statements on gun violence apply to Kansas on this edition of Up to Date.

Guests:

  • Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan.
  • Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican from Overland Park
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. 

Sam Zeff / KCUR

We’ve heard a lot about problems funding education and roads in Kansas because of poor tax revenues — but we can add another problem to that list: state law enforcement agencies.

There are shortages everywhere.

In the past 10 years, as the population of Kansas has grown about 6 percent, the number of police officers has stayed about the same, right at 7,000.

Dwindling law enforcement

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles previewing health-related issues that the Kansas Legislature will face in its upcoming 2016 session.

The 2015 session of the Kansas Legislature began with a budget crisis and Gov. Sam Brownback proposing a large hike in the state tobacco tax to help solve it.

The 2016 session is set to begin in January with the budget again in need of patching. But the kind of tobacco tax increase anti-smoking advocates believe would spur Kansans to kick the habit is less likely.

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.

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.

Pages