Stimulus plan has stimulated discussion

The major source of interest at the statehouse this week is the president?s economic stimulus bill, the Ameri?can Recovery and Reinvest?ment Act (ARRA).

Unlike some states, Kansas isn?t making much noise about rejecting the revenue in the package, and this week Kansas accepted its first installment of new federal Medicaid dollars. That $71.5 million will reduce pressure on the our general fund. It is part of roughly $440 million Kansas will receive over two years, just for Medicaid.

The state agencies of education, energy, transportation and social services are beginning to grasp how the stimulus package applies to them. We now know if Kansas accepts the federal money, we cannot cut budgets related to that money any deeper than the governor has suggested for 2010. If we do, the federal money is waived and will be spent elsewhere.

We will receive briefings immediately from Legislative Research about what this all means. It makes it difficult to plan or even set a timeline for budget decisions. It appears the legislature will debate the FY 2010 budget during the week of March 23, leaving some major budget decisions to be tackled in the veto session in early May.

While federal stimulus dollars won?t fix our budget deficit for next year, they do alleviate a great deal of pressure. I may not agree with the federal deficit spending plan, but we would be foolish to not use this money; we can then at least maintain our obligations to education, transportation, local government and social services. We?ve made real headway in education and to retreat could be disastrous for our children.

The energy bill passed by the House and sent to the Senate for debate on Friday. If enacted, the proposal would pave the way for constructing two coal-fired power plants near Holcomb.

HB 2014 also contains provisions for a variety of energy conservation measures including a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), true net metering, and requirements for energy efficiency in state buildings and vehicles.

It is a mixed bag, and I found the competing issues difficult for this freshman (me) to grapple with.

Gov. Sebelius has indicated she will veto the bill. Word has it she is headed for a cabinet post in Washington D.C., so the veto may be up to Lt. Governor Mark Parkinson, who is also likely to exercise his veto.

To override the veto, the House would need 84 votes. Last week?s final tally came up with 78. I doubt the House will muster an override.

As an aside, President Obama is looking at a cap and trade system with respect to CO2 emissions,. So if the veto were overridden we still might have mitigation of the emissions from the plant.

The House will also be looking at a statewide smoking ban. The measure is in the Public Health Committee, where it has a strong opponent in chair?woman Brenda Landwehr, of Wichita. She has agreed to hold two days of hearings on the bill next week.

As currently written, smoking would be banned in most public places with key exceptions: private clubs, including non-profit places like fraternal organizations, and casino gaming floors. But keep in mind that just because a committee chair promises to hold hearings does not mean the bill to reach the House floor.

You may e-mail me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. If you are coming to Topeka, call me at: 785-296-7636.

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