Don Schroeder Legislative Report

By Rep. Don Schroeder
February 07, 2015

We have had a couple of interesting days already this week as the rescission bill was passed out of committee on Monday. A rescission bill is the bill that cuts budgets and moves money around to balance the current year budget. The full House voted Tuesday to pass it. The Senate agreed to on Thursday.

This year, the bill to balance the current year budget is important to get out early, otherwise the State is in danger of not being able to pay its bills after Feb 13. It moves enough money around to be able to make payments to schools and other agencies on time. The three biggest transfers are an additional $158.5M from KDOT (Kansas Department of Transportation), $55M from KDHE (Kansas Department of Health and Environment) and $12 M from CIF (Children’s Initiative Fund).

The total in transfers to balance out 2015 is nearly $248M.The Legislature has had to do rescission bills before, most notably in 2009 and 2010. The reason so many large transfers are done is because there simply is not enough time to fund the remaining 2015 budget through tax increases and budget cuts.

Now that the rescission bill is passed, work can begin on the 2016 budget. The budget gap for 2016 is in the area of $650M. That is a little over 10% of the SGF (State General Fund). Commitments to K-12 schools, higher education and social services represent about 90% of the SGF, so it is impossible to talk about any type of significant program cuts without including those three in the discussion.

The legislature has some very difficult policy decisions ahead. It’s highly unlikely enough cuts can be made to balance the budget on that basis alone. Raising taxes is extremely difficult. KDOT has given about all they can and still maintain any semblance of a road system.  The session could be long.

The Agriculture Committee, as expected, has been hearing some bills regarding water issues. With the water plan the Governor wants to move forward, several enabling pieces of legislation are being heard. The question is where the money will come from for the water plan given the shortage of money in the budget. The water litigation fund was emptied a couple years ago and minimal funding for water programs has occurred in the past several years.

A couple of bills that are back again this year are the proposal to move spring elections to the fall and allowing liquor sales in the large box stores like Dillon’s and Walmart. The voting bill includes several provisions, potentially even making local elections partisan and includes voting a straight ticket with one checkmark. This bill has not been assigned a number at this time.

One of the more interesting parts of this job is to see what kinds of bills get introduced. A couple of the more popular bills, if I may say it that way, are SB 45 which is a bill that would allow concealed carry without a concealed carry permit and SB 71 which rewrites the school funding formula in an effort to not allow certain transfers of funds to schools to which they would otherwise be entitled. So far neither bill have moved out of committees.

Thursday we received notice that the Governor is implementing additional allotment cuts of 1.5% to K-12 schools and 2% to higher education. The rescission bill I talked about earlier does not cover the expected expenditures through the end of the fiscal year, so apparently the Governor is doing this to maintain a positive ending balance in the budget. My email is [email protected]