The 2018 Legislative Session has come to an end after 90 days. There were plenty of issues to contend with this session, and it was unfortunate some chose to play politics in the face of those serious issues rather than strive to solve problems. Despite the challenges before the legislature, there was some good work done this session. We built upon the good work done last session and it appears to be paying off. Recently, S&P upgraded our financial situation from negative to stable. I think we can all agree, that’s a step in the right direction.
Prior to the April Break, the Legislature adopted a new school funding formula in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s latest ruling in Gannon v. State. During the break, it was discovered there was an error in the bill. I supported the “fix” to that legislation to ensure that the bill before the court was in fact the intention of the legislature. Oral arguments for the case are set for later this month.
In recent years, budgets were slashed to pay for the Brownback Tax Plan. After righting that ship last year, we were finally able to stop some of the hemorrhaging in our state agencies this year. The troubling headlines in recent months were a clear sign that our state agencies had been cut to the brink. The responsible investments made this year will help keep our budget stable and Kansans served. Some of the things we were able to do this year include:
- $56 million payment this year and next to restore the borrowed money from the KPERS retirement system
- Restoring reimbursements to nursing homes from previous Medicaid cuts
- Funding our K-12 education plan through a new formula as well as funding for Parents as Teachers and Tiny K
- Restored 62.5 percent of cuts to higher education
- Stopped borrowing from the highway fund and restored money allowing them to finish the 23 remaining T-WORKS projects
- Finally putting funds into the State Water Plan Fund to help preserve our water resource
- Funding for disaster relief
- Addressed the needs of the Department of Children and Families to train more staff to help find missing children
- Restored funding to Larned and Osawatomie State Hospitals and provide funding for additional staff at Parsons State Hospital
In recent years, Kansas has gone through a series of dramatic tax changes. Yet another one was proposed this year. On the last day of the session, the Legislature was asked to vote on a mega tax bill. Procedural motions prevented amendments to the bill. While it included correcting some unintended consequences of the recent federal tax reform, it stretched far beyond the federal adjustments. There were a number of pieces in the bill that the Department of Revenue was unable to tell us how much money it would cost.
As chair of the budget committee, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for a tax plan that’s full impact couldn’t be determined. I look forward to addressing these issues at the start of next session, when we have more solid information.
It is good to be home back on the farm and back into our communities. We just finished a successful lambing season with our Katahdin sheep. Because one of our ewes did not accept a twin, we are experiencing having a bottle-fed lamb. His name is Otis. He quickly graduated to ram status. Getting ready to plant our third crop of lettuce in the high tunnel and experiment with hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers this summer.
If you have any problems getting through the state red tape on an issue you may have, please call me at home, rather than my office number. I am often outside during the day but will try to get back with as soon as I can. Thank you for all the e-mails, notes and calls during session. Your input is helpful in the legislative process.