Written by Bob Brookens Tuesday, 31 March 2009 14:24
This week was short so conference committees could meet, but we still passed more legislation and made more sausage than in the rest of the session put together.
We passed the “mega” budget and a capital improvements budget. The subject of a smoke-free Kansas came up, but did not come to a final vote. The most excitement surrounded a “transparency” bill that came up Wednesday. And we passed a host of other legislation on various topics.
We return next week to review the conference committees’ work. Then I’m home for three weeks while the governor considers what she will veto.
The “transparency” bill: Out of nowhere came an amendment that would require those who attempt to affect elections by radio, television or mail to disclose the names of contributors so the public can see who is pushing for or against a candidate. This is the same reporting candidates send in to the Ethics Commission.
This caused great heartburn for certain folks—representatives and a couple of lobby groups.
Ultimately, the amendment failed through a procedural move. I had no opportunity to vote on the amendment, but I do believe transparency in elections is very important.
I recall that as we raised our kids my wife, Anita, washed out our boys’ cloth diapers, then she took those dingy things outside and hung them on the line in the sunlight. As she predicted, the dingy stains were bleached white.
So it is with government. There is never a problem with too much sunshine on diapers or the affairs of government. Transparency should be the order of the day. Maybe someday.
As to the budget (appropriations bill) and its effect: The House budget attempts to strike a balance and require every state agency and program to make some sacrifice. Some agencies are being asked to work with less funding than others.
Here’s a look at how agencies would be impacted by our state’s need to reduce its overall spending for fiscal year 2010:
n General government funding reduced by 9.9 percent.
n Poor and disabled funding reduced by 4.2 percent.
n Public safety funding reduced by 9.4 percent.
n Agriculture and natural resources funding reduced by 22.7 percent.
n Higher education funding reduced by 3.5 percent.
n K-12 education funding reduced by 0.6 percent ($33 out of $4,400 funding).
This formulation has been slightly adjusted by a Senate-House conference committee, but the state’s 2010 budget, no matter what its final form, is going to affect every level of government.
It doesn’t fund several programs that county and city entities count on to pave roads and repair bridges. While I find this troubling, the House did fund the “slider payments” due in spring 2009 as part of that year’s budget; it is the 2010 money that’s left out. I don’t yet know what the conference committee did with this aspect.
The House budget bill takes advantage of all federal stimulus funding for Medicaid and K-12 education (there is some dispute about that). Despite the reductions, Kansas schools are receiving more state funding than in 2008; and schools would also receive $71 million more in Title 1 funding in addition to the state funding.
The House budget bill does accept all but two of the governor’s recommended budget adjustments. The bill ensures state employees who have worked tirelessly are shown a bit of gratitude through a whopping 1 percent raise and longevity bonus.
It also adds additional funding for physically and developmentally disabled waiver programs—the developmentally disabled waiver was scrapped by the conference committee as a concession to the Senate and governor—and expands the state’s health insurance program for families with incomes up to 250 percent of poverty level.
You may e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net, or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. If you are coming to Topeka, call me at: 785-296-7636.