Here we go. The 2015 Kansas Legislative session kicked off this week with a bang and the message is loud and clear ― the Brownback administration is doubling down.
What are the stakes? The viability of our state economy and the quality of life for all Kansans. Governor Brownback’s State of the State address reiterated his continued priority to remake Kansas into a Christian Conservative state. The coming months are sure to challenge every platform position, every moderate value that MainStream Coalition members seek to preserve.
- Continue on the path to zero out income taxes
- Amend the constitution to appoint supreme court justices via a partisan process
- Make all local elections partisan, by shifting all elections to the fall
- Adopt a new school finance formula, rather than adequately fund the existing one
- Amend the constitution to make state debt a general obligation to be paid first
- Remain the most pro-life state in America
- Promote strong healthy marriages and families
- Continue to drop ‘unhealthy’ Kansans from social service safety nets and call it success
- [Service] is a “God-given responsibility that we, as elected officials must accept and act upon.”
The $1.2 Billion elephant in the room is Governor Brownback’s zero income tax policy that has brought Kansas back to post-recessionary deficits of alarming proportions… and no safety net in sight. First order of business, the newly re-elected legislators must decide how to plug the projected $279 million budget deficit for this current fiscal year, ending June 2015. Revenue projections for FY2016 confront the Brownback administration with another $436 million shortfall as well as a $550 million tab to back fill the education budget for our Kansas public schools.
Unfortunately, the prevailing sentiment among the recently re-elected officials who brought us to this juncture is that Kansas government services are wasteful programs with more than enough money to get the job done. Their solution to the budget crisis is to demand that government programs just learn how to manage resources more effectively. We can expect House and Senate Committee Chairs to prioritize bills that cut or borrow from existing revenue streams.
Concerns for the hundreds of thousands of Kansans left behind, and out in the cold on side of this new experimental road, were expressed by Senator Hensley, in his response to the State of the State address:
- “From 2007 to 2009, the loss of revenue to Kansas was $600 million, due to the greatest national economic downturn since the Great Depression. Last year alone our state’s revenue dropped by $700 million.”
- “This loss of revenue resulted in our state’s credit rating being downgraded twice by two different credit rating agencies.”
- “The nation as a whole has seen record private-sector job growth, but Kansas continues to lag behind. In Kansas City, the Missouri side has seen four times the job growth than the Kansas side.”
- “150,000 Kansans who have been denied health care coverage and the dozens of rural hospitals at risk of closing their doors because the Governor refuses to expand Medicaid.”
- “The number of homeless children attending Kansas schools has tripled since the Great Recession. Child poverty has increased every year since the Governor took office, and for the first time, one-half of all Kansas school children qualify for free or reduced lunch. For many, their only meals of the day come from their school cafeteria.”
- “… the single largest cut to public school funding in state history, … they violated their constitutional duty. This cut has threatened the quality of education Kansas children receive all across our state. Class sizes increased. Schools closed. Teachers were laid off. Test scores dropped.”