Brookens and Longbine focus on state issues

The budget, unemployment reform, school finance, speed limits and other topics were some of the issues discussed Saturday during a legislative coffee with Rep. Bob Brookens, and Sen. Jeff Longbine.

?The budget drives everything,? Longbine told a group of more than 30 people attending the event.

?If you remember,? he said, ?in early January, Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a budget that called for reduction in expenses in 2011 and estimated a $550 million deficit in 2012, which is now reduced to $498 million.?

Longbine explained that part of that budget discussion is called a rescission bill and that is what needs to get done soon. A rescission makes additional cuts to the current budget year and will tell legislators what the ending balances will be going into 2012.

?It is difficult to do the 2012 budget without knowing where we end up in 2011,? Longbine said.

According to Longbine, the Senate restored a total of $16.8 million and another $7 million in 2012 for what is called the ?maintenance of effort? for the special education fund, which is a match requirement to get federal special education dollars to Kansas school districts.

?The Senate put that in, but the governor and House didn?t have it in their bills,? he said. ?We are at impasse on this.?

For the past six years, the unemployment fund balance was between $500 and $600 million, but through the current recession, Longbine said, the fund has been depleted.

?We have also borrowed $107 million from the federal government?s unemployment fund to pay claims in Kansas,? he said.

At one time, the state was adding 16,000 people a day.

?It was a disaster,? Longbine said. ?SB 77 will restore funding back to the unemployment fund, and by the end of 2013, we have to pay the money we borrowed back to the federal fund with interest.?

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