Capitol Update: On budget, there’s no easy way out

To keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we feature an update columns each Monday from one of northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Rep. Clayton submits this week’s update:

Stephanie Clayton 2014The Kansas Legislature has finished almost all committee work, and will spend this week debating, amending, and voting on bills in our Committees Of The Whole. Last week, the House Federal and State Affairs committee, of which I am a member, passed out Senate Bill 45, the Constitutional Carry bill. This bill allows anyone (aside from those convicted of certain felonies) to carry a concealed weapon without a permit or training of any kind. I voted against this bill in committee, but it passed overwhelmingly, and is headed to the House floor for a vote. This is the last stop for the bill, as it was passed out of the Senate earlier this session.

The House will also vote on our preliminary budget this week. That budget will later be combined with the Senate budget into the final budget that we will vote on later this session. Unlike the federal government, Kansas is constitutionally bound to pass a balanced budget. It has been a difficult session because we have had to work from the Governor’s suggested budget, which is based on a tax plan (increasing alcohol and cigarette taxes) that does not appear likely to pass.

It is not easy for legislative leadership to get a budget passed. This year will be especially difficult, because the proposed budget is set to deficit-spend — a practice that no responsible legislator, including myself, can abide. You may remember from previous columns from me and other legislators that questionable tactics have been employed in order to procure votes on onerous bills.

Here is what you need to watch for as the House Budget debate approaches:

The House version of the budget as it currently stands has several things to like, including the full funding of the Parents As Teachers program. This alone is suspect, as the person behind the effort to gut the funding for the program is second-in-command to the Speaker of the House. The funding would not have been restored to the proposed budget this easily without an ulterior motive behind it.

Attachments or promises to sweeten the deal: Do not be surprised to see a Medicaid Expansion proviso attached to the budget in order to ease its passage. We may also see the Transparency Act, of which I am the chief sponsor, and has co-sponsors that number a full fifth of House members, attached as a proviso.

The object here is to force the hand of legislators: Do we say “no” to an appealing budget? Or do we vote to deficit spend? There is really only one choice here, which is to make a reality-based vote: Kansas Has No Money, and a vote for a Fantasy Budget that we cannot afford is irresponsible, and disingenuous to our constituents, because any budget that is put into place before the revenue plan is corrected will face further cuts in the immediate months to come.

I enjoy hearing from constituents. You can e-mail me at stephanie.clayton@house.ks.com, find me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @sscjocoks.

Last Thursday, Rep. Clayton spoke at a legislative forum put on by the northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce at Lucky Brewgrille in Mission. (Sen. Kay Wolf was scheduled to appear as well, but was held up in Topeka as the Senate debated a number of bills and did not make it back to northeast Johnson County). We’re embedding audio of her remarks below.

If you’re interested in particular topics, refer to these timecodes:

1:45: Constitutional Carry bill
4:20: Proposal to move elections to fall
8:20: Allowing grocery stores to sell alcohol
12:00: Medicaid/KanCare expansion
14:10: Committee discussions on state promoting marriage and discouraging divorce
17:10: Bill that would prohibit union dues being taken from paycheck
18:35: Bill that would make it illegal for teachers to expose kids to “harmful” materials
20:25: Sex education opt-in vs. opt-out
23:10: Block grant bill and the process by which it passed out of the House