As usual, the regular 2021 legislative session ended rather chaotically. This year there was a budget that includes no funding for public education and sets us up for Brownback 2.0, passage of the discriminatory and wholly unnecessary SB 55 under the cloak of darkness, and election laws based on the “big lie.”
There was more, but I’ll focus on the budget here in this Capitol Update.
Passing a budget is the legislature’s main job. The House passed the Conference Committee Report on HB 2007 by a vote of 71-52.
I voted NO for three primary reasons:
- there was no public K-12 education funding bill at all after a surprise defeat of SB 175,
- tax cuts and reliance on federal funds set us up for a budget crisis in upcoming years, and
- it leaves $350-460 million on the table for Medicaid expansion.
SB 175, known as the “Frankenstein” education bill expanded the current private school scholarship tax credit and created an “education savings plan.” Both schemes are simply shell games devised to divert funds from the State General Fund to private, mostly religious schools.
All of the K-12 education budget was in SB 175, so when it was narrowly defeated on Friday afternoon, it left us with no education funding in place.
It is paramount that we continue to follow the plan to restore funding (at least!) to the constitutionally required minimum so that we don’t end up in the courts again. Keep in mind that the K-12 education budget proposed by House and Senate leadership also called for replacing state funding with federal funds intended specifically for COVID-19 response efforts.
This budget sets us up for a fiscal failure as early as 2023. The use of one-time federal funds, on which we don’t even know all the rules and regulations, combined with tax cuts to multinational corporations and potential “double dipping” on forgivable PPP expenses culminates with the state spending $630 million more than it takes in.
We’ve already lived through the consequences of doing just that. Who wants Brownback 2.0?
Last, but certainly not least, this budget fails to expand Medicaid, again! It is both a moral and economic imperative that would cover 160,000 Kansans, create jobs and put us on equal footing with every surrounding state. \
Kansans, our local chambers of commerce, and our healthcare industries (the #2 industry in House District 20) overwhelmingly support expansion. It’s past time!
While the focus of this update is the budget, noting the shameful passage of a SB 55 to ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ teams at publicly funded schools and colleges in the dark of night is warranted. As a soccer mom and college admissions consultant, I can tell you that women’s sports don’t need “saving” from athletes whose competition is quite adequately regulated by KSHSAA and the NCAA.
As well, every election law considered and passed grew from the “big lie” of a single candidate, despite unequivocal statements from both our Secretary of State and Johnson County Election Commissioner that our Kansas elections were fair and secure.
Perhaps we should focus on legislation like I put forward, HB 2278, holding candidates accountable for fair campaign practices, including lies — big and little.