Capitol Update: ‘The current path…is unsustainable and unacceptable’

Rep. Stephanie Clayton.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton.

The 2016 legislative session gets under way this morning in Topeka, and throughout the session we’ll be bringing you a weekly update 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 — about what they’re working on in Topeka. Rep. Clayton submits this week’s update:

Today is the first day of the 2016 Kansas legislative session. This week, legislators will receive budget and policy information that will set the stage for the action that will occur in the next several months.

On Tuesday, the results of an “Efficiency Study” will be presented to the House Appropriations committee. I expect this study to include suggestions for programs to be cut, eliminated, or put on a “watch list.” My placement on two budget committees provides me with an excellent opportunity to review the cost effectiveness of these programs. Especially important is the opportunity to save from elimination the programs that benefit Kansas families the most.

It is worth noting that the legislative operating budget was *not* included in the efficiency study. I look forward to working with a bipartisan, cross-factional coalition to pursue cost-cutting options. Before we cut the budget that serves Kansas citizens, legislators should ensure that we are conducting our operations in the least expensive manner possible. Only when our own house is in order can we truly provide the citizenry with a well-managed budget.

Also on Tuesday is the annual State of the State address. Similar in format to the State of the Union, the State of the State allows the Governor to address the legislature and signal to us what his priorities and goals are for the upcoming session. (If you want to hear the speech, which begins at 5 p.m., tune in to any Kansas Public Radio station; the speech will also be live-streamed on Kansas.gov.) The address should provide a clear view of the challenges that the legislature will face regarding tax policy reform. It is my hope that the executive branch will keep an open mind, and allow the legislature to pursue all measures that will lead to a balanced budget. The current path of fund sweeps, raising our sales tax to historic heights, and the Washington-style increases of our debt ceiling is unsustainable and unacceptable.

I am grateful to so many of you for your tireless activism on behalf of your fellow citizens — your phone calls and e-mails make a tremendous difference. When the Parents As Teachers program was in danger of being completely gutted, Johnson Countians responded in force, and it worked. I say this, because I know that many of you may feel that your words fall on deaf ears. But, your voices are heard, and recognized, and respected. Together, we can, and have made a difference, and I am excited to return to the statehouse to work for you again.

I enjoy hearing from you! Please contact me at stephanie.clayton@house.ks.gov. During the session, I send out a weekly e-newsletter; if you are interested in signing up, please send me your e-mail address. For real-time updates from the House Floor, follow me on twitter @sscjocoks. If you have children who are interested in serving as a legislative page, please contact me as soon as you can: Today I will find out which dates I have been assigned for legislative page visits.