Legislature Report From Don Schroeder

By Don Schroeder
March 24, 2017

As we begin this week of the Legislative Session, the reality is that most committee work will end on Friday. After that, the planner says ‘on floor all day’ for next week. Then the first week of April is reserved for conference committees to meet and voting on those reports with first adjournment on April 7.  After that, we have three weeks off until veto session.

Many issues still remain unresolved, the largest being the FY 2018/19 budget and the school funding formula. A number of pieces need to fall into place to bring resolution to those two issues. After that, the next question is whether adequate funding is, or will be, in place to pay for the programs.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee continues to work on a new funding formula. Tuesday the Committee had a briefing on a draft of a funding bill. Many things look similar to the old formula, but a couple of the differences that are evident are increased emphasis on at risk and special education. Those items were targeted by the Court as needing additional funding.

Other changes are a modified weighting for busing and generally an increase in the Base State Aid, but along with that fewer and somewhat modified weightings. The formula as proposed includes low enrollment weighting, but no high enrollment weighting. Please remember that this is a draft and will be subject to amendment when the Committee works the bill, probably next week.

Appropriations Committee was hoping to get a FY 2018/19 budget out of the Committee by the end of the week. Once again, the question is how much additional funding revenue, if any, will be available for the budget? The Senate is beginning with the assumption that there will be additional revenue but the House will begin with zero additional revenue. Starting at zero will be a difficult task, but the Committee seemed intent on using that as a starting point and working our way through the various recommended budgets and eventually the enhancement requests.

A tax increase has passed the House and Senate earlier but was vetoed by the Governor. Current numbers show the shortage of funds for the budget of at least $300M for FY 2018 and $450M for FY 2019. The vetoed bill would have raised around $450M ongoing, so would have gone a long way to meet the budget as currently proposed, even though there is a delay before revenues are realized. The House Tax Committee is working on another proposal but not all the pieces are in place yet. In the proposed budget, that vetoed tax increase would have only covered the existing deficit and the maximum transfer from KDOT to the General Fund would continue.

Another unknown is the Education Funding Formula. Some estimates have been very high, but I question how a cost can even be calculated when no formula exists. From Committee suggestion Tuesday, very likely the education funding will increase but may be at a lower level than some are suggesting. Small changes to the formula can make large changes in funding requirements as well.

The Ag committee has not had too much action since turnaround, but a couple of water conservation bills and a bill extending sunsets on Kansas Department of Agriculture fees has been passed. Monday the pet animal act passed out of the committee and may hit the floor next week.

Legislative members are getting a little anxious to get things done and finally tie up the loose ends. Many of the smaller items are getting done, but as already stated, the big items of budget, revenue and school formula and the accompanying funding are still ongoing. Those items will get focused attention as the first adjournment deadline is looming.


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