Capitol Ideas

Work continues at many levels toward an acceptable budget bill

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This past week saw the House finally take up the issue of the 2009 budget modifications. We have a duty to balance the issues and balance the budget.

We dealt with the governor?s proposal, the Senate Ways and Means Committee proposal, the final Senate bill, the House Appropriations Committee bill, and finally, the amended House proposal.

By the time the governor proposed her budget modifications, it was grossly out-of-balance and inaccurate. It had to be modified and more cuts made?circumstances had already changed in our economy.

Trying to swallow information is like drinking from a fire hose

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When I first arrived in Topeka for the legislative session, one of the legislators referred to the legislative process as trying to drink from a fire hose. Well, I now understand fully what that feels like!

We?re being fed so much information so quickly we cannot gulp it all in, so we learn to prioritize?to study and digest our own committees? work first, the issues of the upcoming week second, and then fill in the spare moments.

I?m getting better at that.

I?d like to say thanks to all of you who have contacted me this past week. I appreciate your input and questions, and I especially appreciate your kind words about this column.

I hope you all find it helpful. That is its purpose. These are challenging times, and the more Kansas citizens know and understand the better off Kansas will be.

Where would you cut state’s $220 million

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Let me set up the dilemma facing the Kansas Legis?lature.

Kansas is a cash-basis state and cannot constitutionally spend in the red. Period. The end of the current fiscal year (or spending year) is June 30 and we must right the ship by then.

When Gov. Kathleen Sebelius presented her budget modifications Jan. 13, Kansas had about a $220 million problem. If receipts from taxes are slow in January through June, the $220 million grows.

We have massive cuts to make to balance the current budget, and then we work on a new budget for the next spending year, which starts July 1.

In practice, the Legislature cuts a broad department budget; the executive branch determines what piece of its programs and employees get cut, but the legislative dilemma is still the same.

Some folks don?t want bud?gets cut; they are in denial about the problem. We have no choice but to cut spending now. The question for us in Topeka is: What departments do we cut, and how much? Do we cut all budgets across the board? Do we cut some budgets more than others? There is no easy solution from my vantage point.

Budget not the only issue at stake

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The 2009 legislative session officially began at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12. It was a brief session on the floor as we were officially sworn in; we then listened to remarks from House leadership.

On Monday night, the governor presented her State of the State Address in the House Chamber. In her speech she said that she would not raise taxes, and that was essentially all Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had to say about the budget.

The following day she released her budget recommendations?which included what could end up to be a local tax increase by up to $142.7 million.