House passes budget proposal Thursday

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

This week must be budget week as the House Appropri?ations Committee late last week passed a budget proposal for full House consideration. The full House took up floor debate Wednesday and passed the House version Thursday.

As always, there are some good and some not so good things. Extra funding was provided for Osawatomie Hospital and for corrections officers, and the proposal by the governor to put the Children?s Initiative Fund money into the State General Fund was reversed in committee.

On the other side, the state payment into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is again being delayed and additional money is taken from the Kansas Department of Transportation, as well as other fee-funded agencies, to balance the budget.

The Senate passed a budget out of the Ways and Means Committee Monday, but I don?t know many details about it at this point. They debated its version Thursday and passed it Friday. Now, Senate and House conferees will meet to resolve differences between the two versions. This is typically when many of the smaller details are brought out.

There is some resistance to passing the budget, especially with delaying KPERS transfers again. But the state must have a budget to function and it is important for the House to have a position to bargain from. We are early in the budget process and we typically vote from three to six times on each budget. Another budget vote is likely after we return from the break in April. That budget is called omnibus and is the final budget unless we are called into special session.

We passed a two-year budget last year and what we are doing now is tweaking things to make it all work. Revenues lower than projected means reductions to the budget to make things balance; it?s impossible to increase revenues in the short time frame available before June 30. And now, with the Supreme Court suggesting the block grants are not equitable, some additional funds are needed.

Moving on to other issues, we had a bill regarding sexting by underage individuals. The only current sentencing option is an adult felony for possessing images of kids in a state of undress. This bill adds three levels of sentencing for underage individuals rather than having to sentence them as adults, which was seldom done.

We also have several minor issues before the House, such as increasing the amounts of product a microbrewery can produce and another bill that allows for the possibility of students taking a qualifying exam, in this case for certi?fied public accountant, before finishing college classes. In the past, high school students have been allowed to take college classes while they are a junior or senior in high school, but I am not aware that they could take these types of exams early.

The session is moving along with last the day to introduce bills in non-exempt committees passing by on Monday. Turn around day is scheduled for Feb. 23, meaning that a bill introduced in the House needs to be sent to the Sen?ate by that day or it will likely die when THE session ends.

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