State deficit now exceeds $550-plus million

The veto session got under way last Wednesday. The budget remains the 500-pound gorilla in the room, and we have yet to deal with it.

On another matter, Gov. Park?inson vetoed the bill we had passed regarding abortion reporting. Monday, we voted to override the veto by 86-35; 84 votes are required to override a veto. Now, the question is what the Senate will do about it.

As I put the finishing touches on this column, we are preparing to discuss the issue of taxes as well as the House budget plan. Friday, we received information that the April tax receipts were, again, below estimates, so we may have to put off debate on today?s bills until modifications can be made to the bills.

You might recall I have mentioned we had a $511 million hole? Well, now it exceeds $550 million. Here are a few words today on the House budget, to bring you up to date….

The House budget asserts to balance without raising taxes. It now cuts K-12 education about $86 million instead of the original cut of $172 million.

The budget does not address the shortfall in Medicaid funding for those in nursing homes nor the mentally ill.

The budget does add funds for the physically disabled and developmentally disabled, but not enough to wipe out the waiting list for services?it would help, though. All agencies are cut an additional 1 percent. Early childhood programs are all cut to one extent or another.

The biggest difficulty with the budget bill, aside from some crippling cuts?many cuts are pretty good, considering hard times?is the ?money? found to fill the money shortage. Much of it is ?funny money??money that?s unlikely to materialize.

The proposed 2010 House budget uses as part of its funding $131 million of additional federal ?recovery act? money that has not yet been passed by Congress. It?s questionable whether it will be passed because Republicans are fighting to keep Congress from enacting another bill that increases the federal deficit?again. It?s doubtful Congress will allot the money. The House budget also relies on $68 million in additional savings in Medicaid by claiming we could seek efficiencies and repayments; one guess is we could find up to $40 million to recover and save?the conservative guess is $25 million?but the House budget plan stretches that to $68 million.

There are other instances of using uncertain revenue to ?balance? the budget. This is problematic to me. The budget proposes an ending balance of $11 million surplus, which is not even 1/100th of a percent. I believe our budget should be based on something more substantial than hopeful revenue.

Our state agencies, the governor (old and upcoming), as well as all Kansans need more certainty than this. I understand there will always be uncertainty, but the uncertain funding items ought to be limited as much as possible, and not the funds we depend on to run the state.

Funding this House budget is like a family planning to pay for food and rent on the hope of lottery winnings instead of working at a job. I?d sooner use the doubtful money for a family trip to Florida, not basic needs. In case the money doesn?t materialize, a family could cancel a trip, but it could hardly cancel making the rent payment. So it ought to be with the state?s budget.

I?ll do what I can to make a responsible decision and reduce the funny money. I?d like it all to go away. I don?t know if it will before we vote on the final budget. I will have to vote on some budget?who knows what it will look like, and we have to find 63 folks to vote for it!

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call me at 620-382-2133 or 785-296-7699. I have no idea when we?ll finish.

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