The state budget or lack thereof is the primary focus as legislators return to the Capitol tomorrow. The big issue is how to close the $400 million budget gap that spans the next two fiscal years. Some legislators have said that all reasonable options are on the table. This sounds a lot like the possibility of revisiting the income tax cuts that are the reason for the budget shortfall. That option does come with a lot of political challenges, not the mention the possibility of a veto by the governor who wants to move to a consumption tax.
Should the legislators try to cut their way out of this budget mess they run into another issue, namely K-12 block grants. This bill, SB 7, was signed into law already which essentially takes more than half of the state budget off the table. Add the KPERS bonding bill and the HOPE Act, and there is little less than 30 percent of the budget left to make cuts.
There appears to be no consensus on which option to pursue so the likely outcome would be a mix of both. Look for attempts to push a tobacco tax and then to modify the income portion. See http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article19800882.html.=.
To see how deep the budget hole is, visit State Revenue Estimates Memo - http://budget.ks.gov/files/FY2016/CRE_Short_Memo_April2015.pdf. See also http://kansaspublicradio.org/kpr-news/kansas-budget-hole-grows-deeper-new-revenue-projections-not-good.
As if the budget issues weren’t enough both chambers continue to get pressure to expand Medicaid. Now the Federal government might even consider withholding funds. See http://kaiserhealthnews.org/news/tennessee-and-kansas-also-get-warning-expand-medicaid-or-risk-losing-hospital-funds/.
While this does add to the stakes federal coercion has proven to less than an effect technique in Kansas.
To break up the routine committee meeting process, the Kansas Bar Association will be hosting another CLE at the Capitol this year. This CLE is free to any lawyer-legislator. Stan Hazlett will provide an hour of ethics next Wednesday, May 6.