2013 Legislature: No support for budget in northeast JoCo delegation

The northeast Johnson County legislators voted against big initiatives such as the budget and tax plan passed this year.

The Kansas Legislature managed to pass a budget and tax plan this year, but did them both with no support from northeast Johnson County legislators.

Both of the final plans drew “no” votes from Sen. Kay Wolf and State Reps. Barbara Bollier, Melissa Rooker, Stephanie Clayton and Emily Perry. It could be branded the year of the ‘no’ vote for the group. Today we take a quick look at the budget objections and tomorrow the tax plan. The delegation had fairly similar budget concerns: it cut essential services that are important to the state and to Johnson County. Cuts to higher education were cited by each of the five legislators as unacceptable and most pointed specifically to the loss of funding to KU Med combined with mandates on how it can cut its costs.

“Irresponsible” is how Sen. Wolf characterized it. “The KU Med cuts should never have happened.” They are telling KU Med “how they can spend their money,” Bollier said, but it adds mandates on the number of students it must keep and directs a stem cell research center with no additional funding. All of the Regents universities took a funding cut over the two-year budget.

An educated workforce will do more for us than tax cuts, Wolf said of the university funding loss. The combination of cuts to higher education and flat funding for K-12 schools next year were on Perry’s list of reasons for her “no” vote on the budget. She called the cuts “deep and devastating” to the most important services in Kansas. Clayton called the higher ed cuts “the big no” on the budget – among other reasons.

There were “lots of reasons to vote no” on the budget, Bollier said, and more than one member of the delegation cited each of the following:

  • Corrections: The cuts to corrections threaten public safety. “We won’t have the same parole supervision and we won’t have the same prison space,” Bollier said. “It made me incredibly concerned.” Clayton added, “I can’t be soft on crime.”
  • Developmentally Disabled: Many non-medical services for the developmentally disabled will be moved into KanCare the state’s Medicaid managed care system next year. Bollier and Clayton both said they wanted a “carve out” to exclude them from KanCare. The fear of service cuts and the opposition of the disability community were noted.
  • Sweeps: The budget sweeps money from several programs into the general fund to balance. Rooker and Wolf said the sweeps shortchanged programs like early childhood education, state park maintenance and transportation projects, leaving them without the money they need.

Tomorrow we take a look at the tax plan and why the northeast JoCo legislators voted against it.