State Senator Jay Emler (R-Lindsborg) was chosen to replace Derek Schmidt as the majority leader of the Kansas Senate Monday.
Emler, a 61-year-old attorney, was first elected to the Senate in 2000. He has served as the chair of the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee for the past two years. He ran unopposed for majority leader, after Hutchinson Senator Terry Bruce dropped out of the race.
The majority leader, who is second only to the Senate President, sets the Senate’s daily debate calendar and runs Republican Party caucus meetings.
After the election, Emler commented to The Associated Press that a repeal of the recently passed state sales tax increase is unlikely, as is the prospect of a quick tax cut.
“If we got a quick tax cut, that would mean we're making a quick hole in the revenues that affect the budget,” Emler told reporters after the election.
Already, the Kansas House, led by Hutchinson Speaker Mike O’Neal, seem ready to discuss the idea of tax cuts. However, the fiscal realities of the state could prevent that from happening. The state has already seen record cuts in spending throughout the year, and outgoing Governor Mark Parkinson has said on numerous occasions that there is nothing left to cut without causing significant damage to the state.
Researchers in the legislature have already noted that the gap between projected revenues and current commitments on spending is nearing $500 million. The recent sales tax increase is only projected to generate $300 million in revenue.
Emler sees his first priority is getting the state budget balances and under control.
"We have to balance. That is the first priority and the second is to see if we can get to the statutory requirement of a 7 1/2 percent ending balance, but I really don't see that happening, Emler said, adding that following the statutory guideline would mean the state would have to have a $400 million surplus at the end of the year - something that he said would be a problem. "If we had a budget proposed with that statutory requirement, we would have to come up with around $1 billion and, I don't think there is really any way to do that," Emler said.
Emler, who also serves on Governor-elect Sam Brownback’s transition team, will assume his new duties when the Senate convenes on Jan. 10.

The Associated Press and GateHouse reporter Matthew Clark contributed to this story.