Capitol Update: Governor’s proposals for making ends meet this fiscal year ‘alarming’

The governor’s proposal would have Kansas turn its tobacco master settlement revenue stream into a one-time payment to make ends meet.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton
Rep. Stephanie Clayton

Each legislative session, we provide northeast Johnson County’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Stephanie Clayton submits the first update of 2017:

The first week in the 2017 Legislative session was a short one—only four days long—but action was substantial. This week saw the new legislature get sworn in, the State of the State Address from the Governor (See the NEJC Delegation’s reactions to the address here), the release of the governor’s budget plan, and the first floor votes.

The State of the State Address left many legislators feeling dubious about his claims for a “structurally balanced budget,” as the qualifier “structurally” raised a flag of alarm. All told, if the legislature follows the recommendations of the governor’s office, we will have to take a great deal of legislative action just to approve all of the changes that his office proposes to get this budget out of the red.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2017 (which ends July 1) is already under water. Legislative action will need to be taken soon in order to approve a rescission bill, which will bring that budget back into balance, so that we are able to pay our bills for this current year. The governor’s office proposes that we do this by liquidating our long-term investment fund by transferring $45 million in interest to our State General Fund, and then borrowing from the principal of $317 million, and paying that back over seven years. In addition to that, there would be a reduction in KPERS payments of about $86 million.

Pause, for a moment, and reflect on the fact that these kind of actions are what are being proposed to get the budget into shape for the next few months. This is alarming, indeed, and brings to mind the fact that things are now so bad, that your government is essentially considering the equivalent of taking a loan out on the 401-K.

The proposals for budget balance for 2018 and 2019 give more cause for concern, as one of the proposals is to “securitize” the revenue stream from the tobacco master settlement; which is primarily used to fund programs for our youngest and most vulnerable Kansans. This, continued reductions in payments to KPERs, sweeps from the transportation fund, and tax increases for alcohol and tobacco products, are included as part of the proposed solution.

It is important to remember that these budget proposals are just that: proposals. In the coming weeks, the legislature will take a hard look at these proposals. I suspect that many of them will not pass muster.

Northeast Johnson County has a long tradition of sending sensible legislators to Topeka, and I am proud to work with colleagues who have demonstrated a strong desire to set the state to rights. In the coming weeks, I have every confidence that you will see this delegation working together to bring positive results to our corner of the state.

I enjoy hearing from you! You can e-mail me at Stephanie.clayton@house.ks.gov, call or text me at 913-205-4970, find me on Facebook at Facebook.com/clayton4kansas, or follow me on Twitter @sscjocoks. Thank you for allowing me to serve.