Capitol Update: Sykes says increased revenue estimates should be ‘treated cautiously,’ but could offer chance to ‘right the ship’

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Brett Parker, Rep. Cindy Neighbor and Sen. Dinah Sykes were scheduled to send updates this week. (Rep. Neighbor has not responded to any of our invitations to participate in Capitol Update). Here’s Sen. Sykes’ filing.

The regular session of the Kansas Legislature ended dramatically after a week that could only be described as bizarre. Ultimatums were issued then retracted. In the Senate, filibusters and differences in adjournment resolutions brought the state within 30 seconds of losing all work in the session that had not been signed by the governor. This drama transpired inside our statehouse which was filled with teachers and education advocates asking the legislature to fulfill our constitutional obligation to provide suitable funding for schools.

Much of the drama of that week related to a constitutional amendment and the need to pass a school funding bill. I, like many other legislators, opposed the amendment because I believe in the wisdom of our constitution protecting public education. Well educated citizens are key to democracy and economic prosperity. The unfolding events of the week strengthened the argument against changing the constitution as the difficulties of the week demonstrated the need for our constitution to continue to require the legislature to make suitable provision for finance.

Ultimately, both the House and Senate passed a bill that adds $500 million to schools over the next five years. The bill itself has an unintentional flaw that prevents $80 million in Local Option Budget (LOB) funds from being distributed. The intention is to pass a trailer bill to correct the error introduced in the drafting to restore this $80 million. I am hopeful that this trailer bill, which Governor Jeff Colyer has indicated he will support, will be promptly passed. Despite the bill’s shortcomings, I feel this bill represents a better attempt to “show our work” as the legislature as we await the ruling of the court.

One of the questions around this bill relates to state revenues and if they will be adequate to support the funding levels contained in the bill. Friday, the Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimating Group revised the estimate for the next 15 months upward by $534 million. Given the challenges our state faces, these numbers offer some encouragement that we may have revenue to face pressing needs our state faces; however, these numbers are just estimates and should be treated cautiously given how things might change. For example, a trade war where Kansas Agriculture is targeted would undoubtedly negatively affect these numbers.

What I think is clear is that our state has, if these numbers prove true, an opportunity to continue to “right the ship” and undo some of the harm caused by the failed experiment with tax policy. As a body, the legislature must decide what course we will pursue. The time is now for us to chart a course of fiscal responsibility that takes seriously the damage caused by previous policies and the need to invest in infrastructure. If we, as Kansans, can take the long view on these issues, we will be better positioned to weather future storms and better positioned to seize the opportunities that tomorrow offers.

As we look toward tomorrow, legislators need the input of constituents as we seek to understand the priorities and needs of our communities. Since the end of the session I’ve enjoyed opportunities to be out in the community. Highlights from the past weeks include:

  • My regular listening session in the Lenexa Public Market with Representative Tom Cox and
  • Representative Linda Gallagher
  • A bill signing for a bill that would enter Kansas into a compact allowing nurses’ licenses to function in states participating in the compact
  • The inauguration of Dr. Girod as the Chancellor of the University of Kansas
  • The opening of the Lenexa Farmer’s Market
  • Meeting with students at Olathe West and Olathe East High schools