2015 Legislative Update - Issue 4
This Legislative Update covers:
- School finance lawsuit (Again...)
- The Brownback School Finance Block Grants Becomes Law
- Moving Local Elections to the Fall
- Medicaid Expansion
School Finance Lawsuit (Again...)
The three-judge panel that ruled in December the state was not adequately meeting their Constitutional obligation to fund public education may soon be ruling on the constitutionality of the Governor’s educational block grant program. In a court order handed down just hours after the House passed the block grant bill, the District Court's three-judge panel reopened a portion of the case dealing with equity amongst districts.
I believe that funding education is one of the most important things our state government does. It should not require an order by the Judiciary to properly fund K-12 public education. Not only is it our moral constitutional and imperative as legislators, but our state and local economies are dependent upon robust K-12 public schools preparing the next generation of works, particularly in the health-care and tech industries.
Fiscal responsibility means spending must match income and budgets must be balanced, and traditionally the legislature has always acted accordingly. This year, however, the Governor is taking a different approach with the budget. This week the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that spends almost $600 million more than the state is expected to have in 2016 and 2017.
The governor suggests filling the revenue hole by raising taxes and reducing the state’s investment into public employee’s pensions. None of the governor’s revenue proposals offer stable long-term solutions to the Kansas revenue crisis
Moving forward I will consider any budget policy that is fair, equitable, and sustainable, and puts the needs of Kansas’ families first. I will not, however, support a fiscally irresponsible budget that does not balance, or relies on funding from one-time revenue sources.
Block Grants Become Law
The Governor’s school finance plan has now been approved by both chambers. The bill replaces the per-pupil school finance formula with a lump sum to school districts. Last week I voted no on the block grant bill because it:
- Eliminates the school finance formula;
- Widens inequalities amongst school districts across the state; and
- Risks litigation in the courts.
The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law. I urge you to contact the Governor’s Office at 785-368-8500 and ask him to veto the bill.
Moving Elections to Fall
This week the House Elections Committee voted to approve moving local elections to November to coincide with the General Election. The bill, which originated in and was passed by the Senate, may now be heard before the entire House for final approval. I will vote against it on the House floor because local governments do not support the change. They fear that holding elections in November will politicize local elections. I agree.
Hundreds of supporters gathered in the Statehouse this week to advocate for Medicaid Expansion as hearings on the measure picked up again. Expanding Medicaid is essential to providing coverage to an additional 150,000. Kansans who are currently without insurance. Independent estimates conclude that the state has lost over $457 million in federal funds by refusing to expand Medicaid. Kansas healthcare providers are pleading with the legislature to expand Medicaid because it is critical to the future of rural hospitals across the state. Expanding Medicaid to cover uninsured Kansans makes financial sense and is the right thing to do.
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