Sam Brownback

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner is replacing Ron Estes as state treasurer.

Gov. Sam Brownback announced LaTurner’s appointment to the soon-to-be vacant position Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference.

Kansas News Service

Kansas legislators hit adjournment Friday with some big tasks left for their wrap-up session that starts May 1.

At the top of the list is a tax and budget plan, which largely will be influenced by the amount of school funding that legislators decide to add in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling last month. In the health policy arena, Medicaid expansion supporters are regrouping after the governor’s veto — and holding out hope for another shot this session.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. April 5.

Rather than propose a new tax plan, Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday opted to endorse a flat tax proposal that a Senate committee advanced this week.

“My goal has always been to make Kansas the best state in America to raise a family and grow a business,” Brownback said in a statement. “A flat tax accomplishes this goal by making taxes fair for everyone and encouraging economic growth.”

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The president of the Kansas Senate says a new school funding formula needs to focus on the quarter of students who are at-risk and not meeting state standards. And simply adding money to a funding formula won’t solve the problem, she says.

Sen. Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, says the federal Head Start program is a good model on how to help at-risk children.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Reports that Gov. Sam Brownback may soon be leaving the state to take a United Nations post have lawmakers and others at the Statehouse talking about how things might change with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer in charge.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

At a time when Kansas is facing a serious budget deficit and a court order saying school funding is inadequate, Gov. Sam Brownback may be leaving the state for a job in Italy. A former high-ranking government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells Kansas Public Radio that Brownback will be named the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas tax receipts came in about $37 million above estimates in February, chipping away at the state’s budget deficit.

The Kansas Budget Office on Wednesday reported about $331.5 million in tax receipts for the month, which was about 13 percent higher than projected revenue. Tax revenues were up about 9 percent compared to February 2016.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Every major advancement of African-Americans since the Civil War has been met and opposed by "white rage," says Carol Anderson. Today, she explains how resentful whites have looked to halt the progress of blacks through discriminatory policies, laws, intimidation and violence.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

KanCare is a $3 billion program that provides health insurance to more than 425,000 Kansans — complex and bureaucratic by its nature.

And lately it seems the privatized Medicaid program has drawn more than its share of complaints from Kansas medical providers, beneficiaries and applicants.

Some are the result of a switch in 2013 to management not by the state but instead by three private insurance companies, while others stem from court rulings or policymaker decisions.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Senate on Friday approved a bill that would roll back much of Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policy to help balance future state budgets.

The 22-18 Senate vote sends the plan to the governor’s desk, where it could face a veto.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas House approved a bill Thursday that would undo many of the state’s 2012 tax cuts to help balance the budget. The 76-48 vote sends the plan to the Senate for consideration.

While the bill had significantly more than the 63 votes needed to pass, it had received 83 votes during a preliminary test Wednesday. Those numbers are significant because 84 votes are needed to override a possible veto from Gov. Sam Brownback.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Senate is setting itself up for a wide-ranging floor debate this week on tax plans to end a series of annual budget deficits by raising more revenue.

Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine said the inability to privately rally 21 votes for a plan means it’s time to get ideas out in the open and see what rises to the top.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Legislature is entering its fifth week of work and already some members are being threatened with a primary and negative postcards are being dropped in mailboxes.

“They told me all this money from the Koch brothers, millions of dollars to attack me in a campaign,” Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. “I’m not here  to be threatened. I’m here to get it fixed. And whatever it takes. And if I do the right thing I will be re-elected because that’s what my constituents want.”

Susie Fagan / Kansas News Service

One of the cornerstones of Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to balance the budget is anticipated savings from a statewide health insurance pool for Kansas teachers.

The governor said that could save $40 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and $80 million a year after that.

But that’s not what the Legislative Post Audit Division discovered in its evaluation.

Brad Wilson / Flickr — CC

In the basket of thorny issues facing Kansas lawmakers how to fund public education is certainly among the thorniest.

Led by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans, the old funding formula was scrapped two years ago in favor of a block grant scheme that expires July 1.

Starting Monday morning the House K-12 Budget Committee starts discussions on a new formula.

And with that comes some questions: 

What is this K-12 Budget Committee?

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ two state-run psychiatric hospitals would lose nearly $20 million under the budget proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

In the current fiscal year, Osawatomie and Larned state hospitals are relying on state funds to make up for the loss of federal funding. Brownback’s recommendations for the fiscal year that starts in July would end that practice, leaving it to the hospitals to make up the lost revenue.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

One critical part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget-balancing plan is creation of a statewide health insurance pool that Kansas public school teachers would have to join.

The governor’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year counts on $80 million a year in health care savings based on an efficiency study by Alvarez & Marsal consulting firm.

But some legislators, including Republicans, are skeptical.

“There’s a big difference between theory and practicality,” says Rep. Larry Campbell of Olathe, chairman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Public health advocates pushing for Kansas to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products are running into the same opposing arguments they did two years ago.

University of Kansas Cancer Center Director Roy Jensen and others pushed for a $1.50-per-pack tax hike in 2015 and were disappointed when the Legislature ultimately settled on a 50-cent increase.

Kansas’ two Republican senators said Monday they support increased vetting of those entering the country, but want Congress involved in developing permanent policy changes.

Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. Pat Roberts issued statements in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 893

On this week's Statehouse Blend Kansas, Sen. Dinah Sykes (R-Lenexa) and Rep. Brett Parker (D-Overland Parker) give us their freshman perspective on Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal, concealed carry on college campuses, and a possible new school funding formula.

Guests:

University of Kansas

New figures from the Kansas Board of Regents spell out just how much each university, community college and technical college would lose if the Legislature chooses to cut its way to a balanced budget this year. 

And it's a lot of money.

In total, all 37 institutions would lose out on a combined $52,546,469 if lawmakers enact an across-the-board 6.95 percent cut.

The state's current-year budget is estimated to be $362 million short and the Legislature must find that money before July.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

In what could be a blow to the road construction industry in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Tuesday said it will only spend $44 million on new projects in the next fiscal year.

For the past several years KDOT has let about $400 million just on preservation projects, including roads and bridges.

“It’s going to cause us additional concern about the safety and reliability of our roads, getting product to market and also providing jobs for many of the folks who are in the construction business,” says Bob Totten with the Kansas Contractors Association.

Jvikings1 / Wikimedia Commons

After success in the state House of Representatives last Thursday, a right-to-work bill is front and center today in the Missouri Senate. We look at the pros and cons of forcing workers in unionized companies to pay union fees. Then, we learn about one Good Samaritan's efforts to reduce a rash of break-ins in Hyde Park.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas legislative session is not yet two weeks old, but there are already signs of the change that many voters called for in the recent elections.

New legislative leadership and an aggressive group of newcomers are pushing back against many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal, which they say won’t fix structural problems with the state budget.

Message From Voters

From the earliest days of the campaign season it was evident that many voters were frustrated about the “budget mess” in Topeka.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

The debate over allowing concealed guns on college campuses is starting to heat up in the Kansas Statehouse.

A law passed in 2013 will require public universities to allow concealed guns on campus starting this summer. A group of Kansas lawmakers now is pushing a bill that would exempt state universities and colleges from the requirement.

Note: Today's show originally ran in October 2014.

Sam Brownback cut taxes dramatically in Kansas. As a Republican governor of a Republican state, he was going to enact the dream. Taxes on small businesses went down to zero. Personal income taxes went down. The tax rate on the highest income bracket went down about 25 percent. Brownback promised prosperous times for the state once government got out of the way.

Wikipedia -- CC

In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback threw down a gauntlet for state universities: come up with a $15,000 bachelor's degree. In education world, almost nobody saw that coming.

But now that the idea for a bargain bachelor's is out there, it's up to the Kansas Board of Regents to try and make it a reality.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal would sell the state’s future payments from tobacco companies to plug financial holes for the next two years.

The budget proposal — outlined Wednesday morning — calls for the state to receive $265 million from “securitizing” the tobacco payments in fiscal year 2018, which starts in July, and the same amount in the following year.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office released a budget proposal Wednesday that is likely to put him at odds with large swaths of the Legislature.

Legislators in both parties won re-election last year on platforms that included repealing a state income tax exemption for business owners and providing a state general fund that balances annual spending with tax revenue and doesn’t rely on one-time sweeps of other money.

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