Balancing the budget a looming challenge

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

The 2017 Kansas Legis­la­tive session is underway. All House and Senate members have been sworn into office and the respective House and Senate leadership positions were selected over a month ago.

In the House, the speaker is Rep. Ryckman (Olathe) and the majority leader is Rep. Hineman (Dighton). The House minority leader is Rep. Ward (Wichita).

In the Senate, Sen. Wagle (Wichita) is president, Sen. Denning (Overland Park) is majority leader and Sen. Hensley (Topeka) is minority leader.

The first legislative day is primarily formalities in that members and leadership are sworn in, but leadership wants to hit the ground running. The Taxa­tion Commit­tee, under Rep. Johnson’s (Assyria) leadership, actually met the first day for introductions and to introduce bills for consideration.

The Appropriations Com­mittee, of which I am a member this year, met Tues­day for introductions and a briefing on the budget and fiscal situation in Kansas.

Normally the State of the State message is the first week of session and this year it was given the second day of session. The focus is to get the process running quickly, and is very different from several past years.

After the State of the State message, the governor’s budget proposal was available for review by legislative members.

The governor has been very tight-lipped about his plans to close the current FY 2017 budget gap of nearly $350 million. After a briefing Wednesday, a large portion of the transfers to fill the gap come from delaying KPERS payments, delaying the final payment to schools from June to July and tapping unclaimed property, as well as a few smaller transfers.

What needs to happen is that the Legislature must balance the current-year budget first. This will require a budget rescission bill since the spending must be reduced from the original budget passed about eight months ago. After that is accomplished, work will begin on the 2018 and 2019 budgets. As a reminder, the state’s 2018 fiscal year begins July 1, 2017, and runs until June 30, 2018.

Looking way down the road, after budget proposals have passed the respective House and Senate chambers, the negotiations between House Appropria­tions Chair Waymaster (Bunker Hill) and Senate Ways and Means Chair McGinn (Sedgwick) and their conferees begin.

House and Senate versions of the budget are reconciled in this way and come back to the respective chambers for another vote. It is notable that the Legisla­ture normally votes at least three times on every bill.

A very simple bill introduced in Taxation Com­mittee would simply bring the LLC exemption to a close. However, if that bill should be taken up there are several other adjustments that may be attached. Those additions could include bringing back the net operating loss carry-forward and reinstating the mortgage interest deduction. We will have to wait on the final version to see what is included.

I don’t know if it is a new record, but the second day of session a bill was passed out of the Elections Committee and was passed in the House Thursday. This issue is being rushed along as there is a conflict between state and federal law that became apparent when Congress­man Pompeo was selected as President-elect Trump’s choice for CIA director. Replacing Pompeo requires certain time frames to allow military service personnel to receive and return ballots among other adjustments.

Things are already moving quickly as committees are meeting and taking care of business. This is in contrast to waiting two weeks before even beginning committees for the past couple of years.

The Legislature has a very full plate with needing to write a new school funding formula and fixing the imbalance between revenues and the budget during this session. Please stay tuned and in touch.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.