As a State Representative of Manhattan, Home of Kansas State University, I advocate for the students, faculty and staff. I believe in Higher Education as the opportunity for individuals to learn how to succeed in this ever-changing global society. It is imperative that we avail ourselves of every chance to study and grow even as we are in the work world. However, Higher Education has been the target for the Ultra Conservatives in the legislature. Perhaps they don’t believe that education should be available for all.
In response to 2016 February revenue numbers being $53 million below expectations the Governor decided to immediately cut all regent universities by 3% for a total of $17 million from all schools. This cut affected all regent universities including Kansas State. With this cut coming so far into FY17 (which ends June 30th) that 3% cut translated to about a 9% cut during the last quarter. The universities re-evaluated their budgets and established crisis priorities. They had to increase tuition and cut student services and programs. And the faculty of course did not get a raise at that time.
With the last cut, Regents Universities suffered $34 Million in 2017. KSU and KU took the biggest portion of these cuts because of a formula that was used by a legislator who made the motion that took more from the two major universities (5.1% from KSU) and less from other universities. Incidentally, that legislator did lose his seat in the August 2 Primary Election.
In the FY2018 budget the universities were restored $11Million and in FY 2019 we restored $15.9 Million. Leaving universities funds still about $7 million short of restoring those cuts. As a member of the Appropriations Committee I will again move to restore needed money to our Regent’s.
I am concerned about the declining enrollment and the impact it has on classes and programs. To attract professors and support staff we need to work to create the best Regents system in the United States. A healthy university is our #1 economic driver.
The framers of the U. S. Constitution and the State of Kansas Constitution felt it was vitally important to have three separate branches of government to protect the people from its government. Still today it is vital that the Legislative, the Judicial and the Executive Branches of the Government remain separate and independent.
In recent years the Republican conservatives in the legislature have attacked the Courts, cut the budgets and threatened to entirely defund the courts. Justices, of course, cannot defend themselves publicly and cannot campaign for re-election.
EDUCATION & THE COURTS
The school formula has been debated, tweaked and abolished over the past few years. This year the Legislature established a “new” funding formula that the courts have essentially approved. The next steps in school finance are to fund the formula and meet the conditions of the court in the Montoy decision.
To try to solve the problem, in May of 2018, we voted to add $105 million per year for the next five years ($525 million) for the K-12 budget. These funds began reaching our districts July 1, 2018. USD 383 has benefited nearly $3 million this year. The opinion of the state Supreme Court was that this is still inadequate. The decision also requires us to increase funding for Special Education to 92% of the actual costs, an increase of about $30 million/year for the next four years. And, the state will have to go back and make up for not recognizing, and equalizing, increases in the consumer price index (CPI) by adding an additional 1.44% ($90Million/year) for the next four years.
At the same time, recognizing the hardships the state has endured under the severe tax cuts of 2013-2017, the Court is allowing us time to get our revenues back up before imposing any new requirements. With the increased revenues we are seeing so far this year, these conditions can be met.
I support the right to a high quality, free public education for the Citizens of Kansas. The changing technology-based economy of this century requires changes in equipment and training for our educators and must be supported by the state. While budgets can always be trimmed and made more efficient, constant cutting and decimating of public education has had a very negative impact on education in Kansas. Our educators and school board members have worked tirelessly to minimize this impact and I applaud those efforts.
Many states are moving toward Pre-K and all-day kindergarten for every child. The investment of $1 in pre-school education returns $7 to our economy. It is time to take actions to make these a reality in our public schools.
Many school districts have moved to project-based learning. Students develop leadership skills and learn from each other. But the responsibility falls on each student to help him or herself and other students to reach the desired outcomes. Communication skills, not just technology skills, are very important in society. The legislature can provide adequate space for learning, remove the cap on school building projects, and provide qualified teachers, social workers and academic counselors. With an improved focus on emotional and social growth of students, individual learning should be enhanced with adequate financial support. Monitoring graduation rates and after graduation outcomes of each student can provide tremendous resources for curriculum and academic program development.
TAX POLICY ---- HISTORY
The state budget has been upside down ever since the governor’s tax plan of 2012 passed and kicked in three years ago, dramatically lowering income to the State General Fund – by about $900 Million year.
The state has survived financially only by using up every dollar in the state savings account, by raiding other funds to shore up the general fund and by borrowing on next year’s income. Now the governor is doing more of the same.
Billboards around the state remind us of the Highway Robbery – the taking of $1 Million per day from the State Highway Sales Tax Fund and the cancellation of highway projects which were promised to every county in the state when we passed the plan.
FUTURE TAX POLICY ---- DO NO HARM
The state budget was upside down after governor Brownback’s 2012 tax plan went into effect, dramatically lowering income to the State General Fund by about $900 Million per year for five years. The State survived financially only by using-up every dollar in the state savings account, by raiding other funds to shore up the general fund and by borrowing on next year’s income, taking $1Million per day from the State Highway Fund and cancelling highway projects which were promised to every county in the state when we passed the highway plan.
I support a fair and balanced revenue policy that derives its funds from three major sources; income, sales and property ownership. These three sources ensure that everyone who benefits from the services of the state are paying a fair share of the costs.
The state tax on sales is 6.5%. When this is added to local sales taxes some areas, including Manhattan, residents are paying close to 10% of all purchases. Sales tax is the quickest source of revenue in times of economic stress and the easiest to change when conditions warrant. I believe it would benefit the citizens and the economy to reduce the state sales tax at the first opportunity. Doing this would automatically reduce the tax on food and expensive purchases such as appliances and vehicles and alleviate stress on family budgets. It would also give our businesses a boost, especially those near state borders.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in the South Dakota internet sales tax decision that states could collect sales tax on internet purchases, but there remains some question whether Congress will put legislation in place to prevent it, even though it would boost state incomes by about $100 million/year or more. That would certainly help to stabilize state finances. Until the dust settles on state revenue and the new Federal Income Tax law, I will strive for a “Do No Harm” position. This is not the time to make more changes in tax policy.
STATE REVENUE UP in 2018
Over the past eight years, the Governor and Legislative Leadership of the party in power ignored the very principles they believed the rest of us should use in our personal and business financial management. This trend could not continue. We had a fiscal crisis in the state and we needed to address it by restructuring revenue and budget priorities.
Following implementation of the governor’s tax experiment of 2012, we saw a continued decline in state revenues. Budgets were cut about 500-750 Million per year to keep us from bankruptcy. We borrowed money from every available source and lowered our revenue estimates. Revising the revenue estimates downward plainly showed that Kansas didn’t have enough income to pay the bills. Our Credit ratings were lowered three times.
THE GOOD NEWS!
For the current time state revenues are up and the budget we passed looks stable. Revenues for April were up $66 Million; May up $101 Million, June $149 Million, July-September up $99.8 Million. That is about $413 Million above our budgeted spending. This is a sign of a recovering economy. It is also a reflection of fourteen months of Job Growth, and state pay raises to mental health nurses, prison guards, educators and state employees.
According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, “Kansas personal income increased at an annual rate of 4.7% in the second quarter of 2018, the 10th highest increase in the nation, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). U.S. annual personal income growth was 4.2 % in the second quarter, a deceleration from the 5% in the first quarter.
It is the first time in a year that Kansas has exceeded the national average for quarterly income growth, and Kansas has trailed the national average every year since 2012.
Personal income growth is a key indicator not only of the state’s economy, but also impacts tax revenue and ability to fund public education and other services. In April, the official state Consensus Revenue Estimate predicted that Kansas personal income would increase 3.9% in 2018.
The BEA defines personal income as the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons from all sources: from participation as laborers in production, from owning a home or business, from the ownership of financial assets, and from government and business in the form of transfers. It includes income from domestic sources as well as the rest of the world. It does not include realized or unrealized capital gains or losses.” (Source: Kansas Association of School Boards, KASB)
It is important that citizens get what they vote for when they elect a statewide leader. Recently our constituents have asked us about State Government transparency. I personally send an email newsletter each week to advise people of upcoming and current topics up for discussions and votes. This allows me to receive feedback about important matters from my district.
Sometimes it is difficult to find out what is going on even when working in the capital, especially if there are no recordings of the committee meetings. Transparency – or the lack thereof – impacts every issue we address in every branch of state government. It is imperative that the public have access to information.
Live streaming of committee meetings by video is now available in some of the rooms and by audio in many more. We are working to make the legislative process more accessible by eliminating anonymous bills, recording all votes, and limiting other maneuvers used to avoid transparency.
We must require more transparency in our agencies, too. For example, when a person is in state custody the state is responsible for their care. If there is mistreatment, injury, abuse or death, accurate information needs to be available to the public to serve justice. Besides prisons, this includes any agency such as the foster care system and our mental health facilities. Good government goes beyond transparency.
I have a record of working to improve the economy of Kansas and Manhattan. For example, as Mayor of Manhattan I purchased the Technology Park at the Manhattan Regional Airport. Having the park enabled us to bring businesses to our community and create jobs.
As a former business owner of The Color Center, Carlin & Jones Career Associates, Inc., Kansas City Dental Care, Inc., I understand the needs of businesses and employees. I serve on the Manhattan Workforce Advisory Board which works to solve community job-related issues.
For the first 5-6 years in the House of Representatives I served on the Economic Development Committee. We created growth in Kansas jobs through the Economic Growth Act and the Kansas Bio Science Authority, as well as funding various projects through the Department of Commerce. We approved the development of STAR Bonds and that the decisions must be made through the Department of Commerce.
When the Federal Government passed the Affordable Care Act one of the elements was called a State Medicaid Expansion. This was written into the act to provide medical coverage to the millions of Americans who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid ($6000 year) because they work at one or more low paying jobs in order to provide for their families. There is a gap in the plan that the Federal Government planned to fill by providing Medicaid coverage to those families. In Kansas we believe the number is about 180,000. However, when the money came to Kansas in 2010, Governor Brownback sent it back and refused to accept the money and/or expand the Medicaid services, leaving our Kansas citizens out of insurance coverage. This is unfathomable to me. I was shocked.
To protect the Governor’s position, he asked for and received legislation that would require a vote of the Legislature in favor of accepting the expansion money before a governor could accept it. In 2017 both The House and The Senate passed legislation to require the governor to expand Medicaid, but the Governor vetoed it. Efforts to override the veto failed by one vote.
Thus, attempting to reach beyond his terms of office, Brownback effectively handicapped the people of Kansas until they elect not only a new Governor but a new House and Senate as well. This year during the August primary the Republican party targeted several of their own Representatives and removed them from office just when overturning his plan seemed to be possible. Attempts to vote on Medicaid expansion have been blocked by procedural moves in both the House and the Senate at every turn. I support Medicaid expansion.
Since the 2012 tax plan has taken effect, services are suffering. Osawatomie lost its Federal Accreditation and financial support. Employees bail out of jobs in the Prisons, at the Larned Corrections Facility, and Highway Patrol to take jobs in the private sector.
Some hospitals have closed, and over 30 hospitals are on the brink of closure, while Federal support through the Medicaid Expansion was denied by the Governor. This year no legislation was allowed on the House Floor that could provide the opportunity to amend the Medicaid Expansion into its pages – because we legislators know that it is the right thing to do but are hampered from acting.
TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) also known as welfare, has been cut from 5 years/ 60 months life time benefit to 24 Months lifetime benefit. They even tried to pass legislation that would require a woman receiving TANF to return to work after 24 hours medical leave after delivering a child. Higher Education has been forced to increase tuition and many students are being forced out of college. We need to provide a path out of poverty through the best education we can provide to our young people.
Foster care services, mental health facility at Osawatomie and the prison system are collapsing. Plans are being developed to improve all these governmental requirements.
Talks of privatization of the prisons and the mental health hospitals are being rejected by the current legislature.