As a Representative 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 every changing 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 the 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 affects all regent universities including Kansas State University. The thing to keep in mind is, with us being so far into the current fiscal year (which ends June 30th) a 3% cut translates to about a 9% cut in reality. The universities have re-evaluated how they will address these cuts and the Regents have approved tuition increases, cuts to student services and programs.
Regents Universities have suffered again another $17 Million cut – or $34 Million in the last quarter of this year. 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.
I support the right to a 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 financed by the state.
The ultra-conservative Republican legislators have worked to drastically cut education budgets during the past decade. While some things can always be trimmed and made more efficient, these cuts are aimed at decimating public education and enhancing private education through state financed vouchers. I have fought this change, even though I have utilized private schools for my own children. I do believe that was a choice and we paid for that choice. The state financing of private education that is not accredited by the state is not a proper use of state funds.
These legislators have voted to cut teacher protections and cuts to education mean fewer teachers in the classroom, larger class sizes and fewer librarians, social workers and school nurses. As a result, the pipeline of teachers in Kansas has decreased significantly over the past few years, a blue ribbon task force on the teacher shortage reported o the State Board of Education. The number of teacher education majors in public and private colleges in Kansas decreased 31 percent, from 7,752 in 2011 to 5,379 in 2014. The number of teaching degrees completed dropped 16 percent during that time to 1,901. Of the 2,789 teachers who left the profession last year, 1,123 were due to retirement, while 500 provided no reason.
EDUCATION AND THE COURTS
After the Courts decision that our Education funding was not “Equitable” we went back into Topeka for a Special Session to work to fix the problem. We finished the Special Session on June 24. – I will be happy to explain that fix in more detail if you like, but as soon as we left town – the administration withheld $75 Million from schools--- the June to August pay. The promise is to pay the $75 Million in July, but at the end of this year they may be shorted again.
The year end was June 30. The legislature gave the governor the job of making cuts of up to $100million if necessary to balance his unsustainable budget. When we left town the Governor requested a $900 Million Certificate of Indebtedness for the upcoming fiscal year, to allow the state to meet cash flow needs in the first quarter of the fiscal year which began July 1.
The certificate is the biggest in state history and the budget director began making cuts to Autism services, mental health, the disabled and KanCare on June 28. He took the last $16 million sales tax money from the KDOT, $45 Million in a Medicaid fee fund, $3Million from the Department of Corrections and the $75Million from payments to school districts – which must be made within 10 days but can be paid from the $900M certificate of indebtedness. Corporate and Individual Income Tax receipts were expected to be down – and they were. The revenues were down $76.2 Million June 30.
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 projects through the Department of Commerce. I support job growth and creation
JOB REPORT POINTS TO TROUBLED KANSAS ECONOMY
A labor market report released this session indicates Kansas lost 1,900 jobs in February and the state has lost 5,400 jobs in the last year. As the economies in other states continue to grow, this is troubling news for the state of Kansas and evidence that Gov. Brownback’s policies aren’t working.
According to the report from the U.S. Department of Labor, Kansas saw a 1.9% improvement in personal income in 2015, 44th in the nation, compared to a national growth rate of 4%. Kansas saw a 0.4% drop in jobs between February 2015 and February 2016. Only four states fared worse during the same period, which saw the nation grow jobs by a rate of 1.8%.
A recent report showed Kansas ranks second worst of the nation’s 50 states in real personal income growth in 2014.
- Employment in Kansas Construction industries has slipped 5.6 % since May 2015, losing 3400 construction jobs over the last year.
- Four states neighboring Kansas have experienced growth in the construction jobs sector adding a combined 20,000 jobs to the economy. –I drove through lots of construction in Oklahoma and Texas last week.
- In April, Kansas delayed up to 3 years authorization of highway construction projects – valued at $550 Million because of budget shortfalls.
- Kansas has been among the weakest 10 states in the country for almost an entire year when it comes to job growth, finishing at 6th worst for the month of May.
It’s time for a change.
Help us to elect moderate Democrats and Republican who will continue to focus on policies that move our state forward by investing in research and innovation, bringing new businesses to the state to generate high-paying jobs, and creating responsible and sustainable tax policies.
KANSAS BRIDGES ‘STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT’
A report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released recently indicates Kansas has more than 2,300 bridges that are considered “structurally deficient”. Kansas is ranked the sixth highest state in the country for the number of structurally deficient bridges.
Being labeled as “structurally deficient” means a bridge is rated as being in a poor or worse condition and needs to be repaired.
This report is troubling. Gov. Brownback has swept more than $1 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation to the State General Fund to balance the state budget. Now that we know the safety of Kansans is being threatened, Legislators must act.
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 $1Million 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.
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 in order to protect the people from its government. I agree that 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 Legislature has attacked the Courts, cut the budgets and threatened to entirely defund the courts if a certain decision was made by the Court. Now there is a well-financed campaign to prevent the retention of 4 of the 5 Supreme Court Justices that are up for retention vote in the election in November. The 5th and only judge being spared from these malicious attacks is Caleb Stegall – a former member of the Brownback cabinet. The Governor was quoted in a news article as saying that we needed judges that would do what we want.
Justices, of course, cannot defend themselves publicly and cannot campaign for re-election. Interesting ---my friend in Kentucky was a Supreme Court justice and was allowed to campaign – but he didn’t do much because it had to be self-funded because he refused to take money from anyone.
The reason that our legislature has not been cleansed and corrected by the public is that the people have a hard time knowing the truth. Legislators are sending messages prepared by the administration into the public domain through the newsletters – which color the issues with a different pen. But the August 2 Primary Election changed some of this for the better.
STATE REVENUE CONTINUES TO DECLINE
Since the implementation of the governor’s tax experiment of 2012, we ave seen a continued decline in state revenues. For the second time since last fall the revenue forecasters have lowered the state’s estimated revenue for the year. This time around the group lowered expectations by $228 million which created a hole of $140 million for the current fiscal year that ended June 30th and a hole of $150 million for the next fiscal year. Revising the revenue estimate downward plainly shows that Kansas dos not have enough income to pay bills.
Our Governor and Legislative Leadership have ignored the very principles they believe the rest of us should use in our own personal and business financial management. This trend cannot continue. We have a fiscal crisis in this state and we need to address it by restructuring our tax policies and budget priorities. I am hopeful when the Legislature returns next winter we will have more legislators who understand the crisis we are in and work to address it.
During the past two sessions the governor has made it clear that any discussion of having a fair tax system was not on the table for discussion and that is wrong for Kansas and the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate agreed. It is high time for Governor Brownback and his Republican allies in the legislature to admit their plan is not working and to repeal their failed tax experiment.
EFFORT TO REDUCE SALES TAX ON FOOD FAILED
The House Tax Committee held hearings on a bill to reverse a portion of Gov. Brownback’s 2012 tax plan. The bill, HB 2444, would have reinstated the income tax on certain businesses (LLCs, S-Corps) and reduced the sales tax on food from the current rate of 6.5% to 2.6%.
Currently 330,000 businesses in Kansas don’t pay any income tax, up from 190,000 when the bill went into effect. As a result, Kansas has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the last three years.
To make up for the lost revenue, the legislature passed the largest tax increase in state history last year, raising the sales tax to 6.5%. The increase in the sales tax means Kansans pay more on all their purchases and more on food than in any other state in the nation.
Our state in broke and the Kansas economy is lagging behind others in the region. I’m ready to get our state back on solid financial footing. But, this bill did not make it to the floor.
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 in order 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.
Furthermore, in order 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. Thus, attempting to reach beyond his terms of office, he has 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 we are well on our way to overturning his plan because we have elected 57 moderate House members and have overtaken the Brownback Majority in the Senate. 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 suffer, Osawatomie lost its Federal Accreditation and financial support, employees bail out of jobs in the Prisons, at the Larned Corrections Facility, Highway Patrol officers take jobs in the private sector, 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.
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 this year 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.