This week of session has been a little different with Gov. Sam Brownback’s resignation, effective Jan. 31, and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s swearing in the exact same day and time as Brownback’s resignation went into effect. It is unlikely the change in the executive branch will cause an upheaval as Brownback has included Colyer in assembling the budget and other policy proposals. However, we can expect some changes with a new player in the process.
Things have settled down a little after the State Board of Education took a vote of confidence in the deputy commissioner. There are still some questions regarding distribution of transportation funding, but it seems to be a matter for the board to look into, if they should decide to do so. Apparently, the attorney general has little interest to investigate further so the matter will likely fade away.
The state revenue receipts continue to come in above projections. At least we no longer have the monthly shortfalls in revenue that were prevalent for several years.
Two of the unknowns about state revenues are whether individuals and businesses will use the current law to wait to submit withholding until April since they can do that without any penalty.
Another question is to what extent the changes in the federal tax reform will have on state taxes. Several of the state’s taxes are indexed to the federal taxes, so some adjustments may be needed. Many, but not all, Kansas residents will see reductions in their Federal taxes, but the majority of the Federal reductions will likely be at the higher income levels.
This past summer the governor’s office was planning on updating the KanCare system, calling it KanCare 2.0. Very little information was released as to exactly what would change. However, last week the governor’s office announced that KanCare 2.0 would not be implemented. The architect of the original KanCare program was Colyer, so it is unknown if the demands of assuming the governorship nixed KanCare 2.0, or if the benefits were simply not justified. The fact remains that there continue to be slow payments and other challenges with the existing KanCare system.
KanCare currently is a public-private partnership arrangement that uses private contractors to manage the finances similar to the way insurance companies work with doctors and hospitals. There have been on-going issues with denied services and slow payment.
Just a small amount of talk is occurring that would return the system to a public based system where the state provides the services and finances throughout the entire program.
It seems unlikely at this time that the state would completely revert back to the prior system, but it could happen eventually if the current ongoing issues are not fixed as many of the issues have gone on too long already.
The school funding formula is still on the list for legislative action. At this point, it seems to be wait and see. My personal preference would be to put together a couple of different scenarios for consideration.
What would it look like if the legislature corrected the formula within existing resources? Would it look different if a little, or a lot of additional funds were added? One thing that is certain is there is little appetite for increasing taxes again this year, so it could be beneficial to consider all the options that realistically are available.
Colyer spoke in the House chamber on Wednesday. While this was not a State of the State message, it was his vision for the State. The new governor plans to make some staffing and policy changes, but those types of changes can be expected. The Legislature will work with the new governor to finish the session and address necessary policies.
Don Schroeder is the Kansas House Representative for District 74, which includes Lindsborg.