Legislators warn of small ending balances in latest Kansas budget bills; ‘bad legislation’ seen in session

Sen. Kay Wolf, speaking to the crowd Saturday morning.
Sen. Kay Wolf, speaking to the crowd Saturday morning.

Budget bills passed last week in the Kansas House and Senate each leave the state with an inadequate ending balance, even before the recent court decision on school funding is dealt with, two northeast Johnson County legislators said Saturday.

The state’s finances, Medicaid expansion, gun legislation, the tax lid on local government, and the court ruling on school funding were just a few of the topics that Sen. Kay Wolf and Rep. Stephanie Clayton tackled during a legislative update session Saturday morning before a full house at the Sylvester Powell, Jr., Community Center in Mission.

“How can you function as a state?” Wolf asked. “Thirty million dollars is nothing (for an ending balance).” That represents about six days of operating funds, she said, and the House-passed budget leaves only $6 million. “(I) believe all of this started with the 2012 taxes (cut).”

Clayton said the yet-to-come “adequacy” ruling on the amount of money needed to fund education “hangs over everything we do.” The court ruled last week on the equity of school finance, declaring the block grant system implemented last year as unconstitutional. A large contingent of legislators “appear to have forgotten their oath of office (to uphold the constitution),” she said, noting the Article 6 requirement to provide a suitable education.

On Medicaid expansion, Clayton said, “I have heard overwhelmingly from my constituents that they want this.” It is not an expansion of the Affordable Care Act, but of Kansas Medicaid, she said. “This is a pro-business issue.”

“There is a lot of bad legislation going on,” Wolf said, after a constituent has asked about a move to expand a school voucher program. Clayton said that he was “vehemently opposed” to the voucher bill.

Wolf called it “almost hypocrisy” that the legislature does not have regard for local government. A bill has been submitted, she said, to move up the implementation date of a tax lid on local budgets that imposes a public vote on increased local budgets.

Approximately 80 people attended the session sponsored by the Prairie Village Post, the City of Mission and the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce. The next legislative update at Sylvester Powell will be held March 12.

A full house turned out for the Saturday morning session at Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission.
A full house turned out for the Saturday morning session at Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission.