Legislative Update: Rep. Don Schroeder

By Rep. Don Schroeder, 74th District
January 29, 2016

This week looks rather slow but things are picking up.

As I think about it, maybe the reason for a slow legislative start this year could be waiting for the January revenue report. Another reason could be that it has become a normal practice to hold off decisions on big issues to the end as part of the overall strategy to combine budget and policy into one large piece of legislation, hoping that will help pass some more controversial issues.

Normally the Appropriations committee receives the Governor’s budget proposal the next morning after the State of the State message. However, the committee did not receive the budget until Monday, which was two full weeks after the State of the State.

The Ag budget committee is just now working on these budget changes assigned to the committee.

I mentioned in an earlier report how the interest and principal payments have increased significantly this year. Borrowing is a type of deficit spending, so increasing the debt burden simply pushes current spending payments into the future.

It certainly bothers me that the State of Kansas would do the Washington thing and push the repayment burden on to our children. That is not sound fiscal policy for the State and I hope we can change that practice. The Alvarez and Marsal efficiency report addresses this issue to some degree and makes suggestions to improve budget and overall fiscal policies.

As mentioned earlier, the revenue numbers come out on Monday Feb. 1. Lower receipts than projected are anticipated. If that happens, there will be something of a scramble to lower spending and perhaps borrow from KDOT again.

We are five months from the end of the budget year which ends June 30, so it is impossible to raise revenues for the current fiscal year. At this point for FY 16, cuts are the only option since there is no carryover built into the budget.

In the last couple years, Leadership has taken to the habit of combining budget and policy into one big document. While this is not breaking new ground, the tradition is to keep the policy issues separate from the budget.

One of the best examples of how combining budget and policy can distort things is passage of the court budget last year. Policy was included to no longer allow the Chief Justice to appoint District Court Chief Judges. Also included was something called a non-severability clause that, if part of the law is deemed null and void, the remainder of the bill is also null and void.

The effect of that was the courts’ funding would end, closing the courts. Last week, a bill was passed to reverse the non-severability, restoring the funding. That’s an example of how mixing budget and policy can go wrong.

The Agriculture and Ag budget committees have met to hear bills and budgets. There are several statutorily required reports to the Legislature we have heard in the Agriculture Committee as well as hearing bills on branding livestock and changing the noxious weed law.

The Agriculture Budget Committee took a look at some rescission changes to the 2016 budget. Remember that an adjustment that lowers the spending authority of a budget is called a rescission. Otherwise, the changes are simply called supplemental.

Next week there should be issues to address on school consolidation, which is being called realignment, as well as an array of other subjects.