Mega budget vote adds mega challenges, too


The Legisla­ture normally passes a mega budget, an expansive budget that reconciles 2012 fiscal matters and puts together a framework for the next fiscal year. Well, we passed one, and so did the Senate.

During negotiations to reconcile 200-plus differences, three senators and three representatives met in conference and came to agreement. We were to have voted to approve the agreement Friday about 3 p.m. just before taking our April break. (The governor gets about 20 days to consider signing or vetoing the bills we’ve passed out so far.)

However, we were told the House conferees would not sign the conference report after discovering the consequences of an item they previously had agreed to pertaining to school funding.

The conferees had all agreed to fund schools about $29 million to finish the school year and they agreed to hammer out later “whose” money to use for the payment—from the state general fund (we have the money there that could be used without risking any deficit spending), to “borrow” from the transportation department’s budget for road work, or to find some other source not yet identified.

The result: We now have no budget bill reconciling the 2012 spending.

This may not impact schools as much as other branches and agencies—those short of funding to finish the fiscal year.

For one, it places our courts, once again, in the precarious position of whether to furlough workers. You might remember from 2009 the judicial branch’s budget is mostly personnel costs, and when there is any shortage there’s virtually no place for the judiciary to cut, except workers’ time.

The good news is less people are filing lawsuits. The bad news is filing fees are way down, and it’s tough to run the legal system without generating the fees, considering the Legislature is under-funding the court system through tax dollars and is relying on fees.

To avoid shutting down the courts for a week in June, we’re likely to see a day here and there with their doors shut across Kansas to make up the shortfall. While closed, work will pile up, and we who use the courts will see delays.

The judiciary’s budget fix that would have avoided furloughs was also contained in that mega budget we didn’t pass Friday.

HB 2789 proposed to create an oversight committee for KanCare, the managed-care system designed by Gov. Brownback to both replace Medicaid and to redesign management for people who are either developmentally disabled or physically disabled .

Many folks seem to understand the desire to streamline management of people with health issues, but a whole host of folks object to putting the developmentally disabled people in that system, as their care is not day-to-day health related, but day-to-day routine management.

Parents tell us they have worked for years to get the care and routine environment for their children (some now are adults) that works for their child, and they object to the disruption of what they believe is working well.

An amendment was proposed to remove the developmentally disabled community from KanCare, but before we voted on it, the bill was sent back to committee.

I have heard from a handful of folks with family members caught up in this tiff. So far, none of them want their kid’s routine messed with. They have all said that routine is essential for the wellbeing of their children, and that upheaval instead of routine causes trauma for the whole family and whole system, not only their child.

If you have thoughts in this arena, please let me know because this is likely to come up again. The hope is to save money; the risk is messing up a system of care for the developmentally disabled community that seems to be working for them.

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or call me at 620-382-2133. We are on break until April 25 while the governor considers bills we’ve passed, so don’t use my Topeka contact information until then.


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