Kansas budget | KCUR

Kansas budget

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 / Kansas News Service

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. 

Guests:

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. 

A couple of items relevant to public health and the health insurance industry are in the mix as lawmakers seek a tax plan that will allow them to end the 2015 session.

Kansas legislators need to locate between $400 million and $500 million in new revenue to fund the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. As the House and Senate move toward the 90th day of the legislative session, most debate has focused on how much of that new revenue should come from rolling back income tax cuts passed in 2012  and how much should come from new sales taxes.

New revenue numbers in Kansas have dipped again, leaving lawmakers with a budget shortfall in the hundreds of millions of dollars. On this edition of Up To Date, we talk about what led to the larger than expected deficit, and what Kansas lawmakers can do to close it. 

Guests:

  • Bryan Lowry is with the Topeka bureau of The Wichita Eagle.
  • Duane Goossen served as the Kansas Budget Director from 1998 to 2010.

More pessimistic state revenue estimates released this week could breathe new life into tobacco and alcohol tax increases that lawmakers thus far had ignored.

The state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group said Monday that Kansas should expect to collect about $5.71 billion in taxes in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s almost $100 million less than the group of economic experts estimated in November, making a difficult budget puzzle even more vexing for legislators.

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network quickly seized on the new projections as evidence legislators should increase the tobacco tax.

“Making tobacco significantly more expensive is a powerful economic tool that will save lives and cut health care costs while also addressing Kansas’ budget shortfall,” said Reagan Cussimanio, the group’s government relations director in Kansas.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

 

About 100 people rallied Wednesday within earshot of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s office to demand the repeal of income tax cuts they say are crippling the state.

The Rev Up Kansas coalition staged the event to call attention to the state’s ongoing budget problems, which organizers said are the result of tax cuts that Brownback championed in the mistaken belief that they would jump-start the Kansas economy.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he isn’t concerned by budget bills in the House and Senate that aren’t balanced. The chambers are considering bills that would require a tax increase to keep the state out of the red. That comes after lawmakers cut taxes in recent years.

Brownback fielded some questions about the budget at an event in Topeka Monday. Brownback does not seem phased by the budget bills. He says lawmakers will fill the deficit, like the Kansas Constitution requires.

Oh, to be fifteen years old. Not a care in the world, except that feature length documentary you've been working on, satirizing the governor and his fiscal policy. That's how most high school sophomores spend their free time, right? 

Guest:

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

 

As Kansas legislators voted this week on a budget bill to keep the state solvent through the current month, Rep. Larry Hibbard laid down a gauntlet.

Hibbard, a rancher, Republican and self-described “common sense conservative” from rural southeast Kansas, said the price of his “yes” vote to keep state government running was an open debate about the income tax cuts spearheaded by fellow Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2012 — tax cuts he blames for the budget shortfall.

The Kansas House has passed a bill that will eliminate most of a $300 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.

The bill takes money from the state highway fund, children’s program funding and other places to help fill the gap. The bill passed the House on an 88-34 vote, mostly along party lines.

Several Republicans said they had concerns but voted yes so the state could pay its bills on time. Rep. Don Hineman was a yes vote, but called for reconsidering tax cuts passed in recent years.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, talks honestly with Steve Kraske about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and offers her opinion on Governor Brownback's vision for Kansas.

Kansas lawmakers are just beginning the job of reviewing and modifying Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax and budget plan.

The governor’s proposal slows scheduled income tax cuts and reduces spending to help fill a budget shortfall. Republican state Sen. Ty Masterson chairs that chamber’s budget committee. He says after revenue collections came up short of predictions, it’s prudent to adjust the tax cuts.

“We had the largest revenue estimation miss in the history of the state, and so now you just have to reevaluate. The purpose is still the right purpose,” says Masterson.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stuck by his aggressive tax policy during his State of the State address Thursday, outlining an ambitious list of legislative priorities for 2015.

But even members of the governor's own party say it's too early to tell what Brownback can accomplish during the session.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback addressed a wide array of issues in his ambitious State of the State address. On this edition of Up To Date, three Kansas lawmakers give their reactions to the governor's speech. 

Guests:

  • Rep. Tom Burroughs (D), House Minority Leader, District 33.
  • Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R), District 19.
  • Rep. John Rubin (R), District 18.

Michael Cannon / Flickr -- Creative Commons

 

A Kansas City-based nonprofit organization says a recent poll shows widespread support for exempting some foods from the Kansas sales tax.

Ashley Jones-Wisner, state policy manager for KC Healthy Kids, says the survey conducted for the Kansas Health Foundation showed that 86.6 percent of Kansans supported exempting fruits and vegetables from the state sales tax.

The Wichita-based foundation helps to fund KC Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing obesity among children.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

There are some high-profile issues that Kansas lawmakers will address in the upcoming legislative session, including filling a budget hole. But there are always other issues that rise to the surface and attract attention when lawmakers are in Topeka.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he’ll be pushing anti-poverty legislation in the coming session, and he also expects work on long-term water policy.

KC Healthy Kids

 

Led by KC Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization supported in part by the Kansas Health Foundation, a coalition is being formed to guide a legislative effort to exempt food from the state sales tax.

“Cutting the sales tax on food will make it more affordable for Kansans to eat healthier,” says Ashley Jones-Wisner, state policy manager for KC Healthy Kids.

Two high-ranking Republicans have criticized Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to use state pension dollars to help fill a budget hole.

Senate Vice President Jeff King and state Treasurer Ron Estes have concerns about the move. They say the proposal hurts the public pension plan, known as KPERS, not long after an attempt to fix it.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has released a plan to fix a budget deficit in the current fiscal year. Cuts to highway funding and the state’s public retirement system will be key to balancing the Kansas budget.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the administration started by trying to find ways to reduce spending while minimizing the effect the cost-cutting would have on services.

Brownback Announces Cuts To Close Budget Gap

Dec 9, 2014

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced Tuesday he will use his power of allotments to make fee transfers and spending cuts to close a $280 million budget gap in the current fiscal year.

Brownback said in a prepared statement that the allotments come from recommendations made by budget director Shawn Sullivan.

Gov. Sam Brownback is staying tight-lipped about his plans to fix a hole in the state budget. But he says he's looking at all the options. 

Following a meeting at the Statehouse, Brownback gave few details to the media about what he'll propose. He says all options are on the table, including tax increases or slowing future scheduled decreases.

Brownback also won't say whether he'll make budget cuts, known as allotments before lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January. Right now, he says he's conferring with state agencies and studying the numbers.

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