KEPC UPDATE: Supreme court hearing, tuition increases, lottery, budget, Osawatomie, nothing on property tax lid

In this issue …

  • Kansas Supreme Court to set school finance hearing schedule
  • Board of Regents approves tuition rate increases
  • Governor vetoes Lottery extension/vending machines
  • How the budget turned out
  • Feds don’t certify Osawatomie State Hospital
  • No action on property tax lid
  • Bill Tracking


Kansas Supreme Court to set school finance hearing schedule

Now that Governor Sam Brownback has signed SB 19, the new school finance formula bill, the Kansas Supreme Court has begun the process of reviewing the bill relative to its constitutionality.

A scheduling conference call will take place at 8:30 Monday morning to discuss deadlines and identify at least the major issues arising out of the signing of the bill.  Afterward Monday, the Court says it will issue a scheduling order.  It’s expected the Supreme Court will schedule a hearing on the constitutionality of the bill very quickly.

Kansas lawmakers will return June 26 for the formal Sine Die session when the books are officially closed on the session.  If Governor Brownback vetoes any bills, Sine Die will be the time when veto override votes take place.

A possible return could occur before then if the Kansas Supreme Court rules that the school finance actions taken by lawmakers are unconstitutional.  That could mean returning to session before the end of June to figure out how to make school funding constitutional and allow revenue to move to local school districts.


Board of Regents approves tuition rate increases

Once again, the Kansas Board of Regents has approved tuition increases for the six state universities for another academic year.  The majority of the increases range from 1.5% to 1.9% for undergraduate resident and non-resident students.

The exceptions are the University of Kansas Compact Rate (5.5% increase) and students attending the University of Kansas Medical Center (5.0%).  Students attending the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine will have no rate increase.

Here’s a link to the 102-page Kansas Board of Regents document that provides detailed information on tuition at all of the state’s Regents Institutions.

Also, the Kansas News Service has put together an excellent report on the rising cost of higher education in Kansas that’s well worth reading to understand how dwindling state support over the years has resulted in higher tuitions.

Pay particular attention to the chart entitled, “The shifting cost of Kansas education.”  It really tells the story.

Here’s the link to the story.


Governor vetoes Lottery extension/vending machines

Governor Sam Brownback has vetoed a bill that extends the Kansas Lottery because it authorizes vending machine sales of Lottery products.

Brownback vetoed House Bill 2313, saying he objected to the measure because expansion of lottery ticket sales “will negatively impact our communities and our neighbors.  The Kansas Lottery has a disproportionately negative effect on low income Kansans.  Rather than investing limited resources in games of chance, our goal is to help low income Kansans find a path to self-reliance and independence through education, work, and savings.”

There appeared to be no advance warning that Brownback was going to veto the bill.

Kansas Lottery officials had lobbied legislators for many months to authorize vending machines.  They argued an additional $8 to $10 million in state revenue would be generated.  The bill dedicated that additional funding to community mental health services.

Current law sunsets the Kansas Lottery on July 1, 2022, so the Kansas Legislature has five years to renew it.  The Lottery provides funding for the Kansas Department of Commerce and most of the state’s economic development programs.


How the budget turned out

The two year budget passed by the legislature leaves the state with an estimated ending balance of $157 million (2.5%) in Fiscal Year 2018 and $209 million (3.3%) in Fiscal Year 2019.

Built into the budget is a pay raise for state employees after almost nine years of no raises for most.  Those with less than five years on the job will get a 2.5% raise, while those with over five years will receive a 5% increase.  There are some exceptions.  Statewide elected officials and legislators don’t get a raise.  In the courts, there’s 2.5% allowed for judges and non-judicial staff.

Also in the budget is a provision that allows the Kansas Department of Transportation to issue up to $400 million in bonds over the next two years.  The revenue raised must be used for road maintenance and repair.

The state water plan will receive $1.2 million after a long wait for additional funds.


Feds don’t recertify Osawatomie State Hospital

In a very disappointing decision for the Administration and many others, the Osawatomie State Hospital has not been recertified by the federal government.  That means it will continue to lose $1 million per month in federal funds.

The certification of the unit was revoked at the end of 2015 over safety issues, along with a lack of staff and problems having to do with patient care.  Many blamed state budget cuts.  The federal government said the facility was too unsafe to accept Medicare patients.

The latest inspection indicated there were improvements at the facility, but not enough for recertification.

Osawatomie State Hospital is a psychiatric hospital with 206 beds.  At one time, it was considered by many to be a strong leader in treatment of serious mental illnesses.  Federal officials started looking into safety at the hospital after a 2015 sexual assault.


No action on property tax lid

The legislature, caught up in the fervor of trying to pass an income tax override, school finance, and a budget, did not take action to loosen the local property tax lid.  The major hope was to exempt employee benefits from the lid.

Local government officials are now putting together their 2018 budgets.  Many are trying to figure out how to meet increased demand for public services under the tax lid’s restrictions.  Exceeding the lid is possible with an election, but most agree that the current law on how that would happen is unworkable.


Bill tracking

Here’s our latest bill tracking on measures we think are of interest to our readers.

You should be able to click on the bill number and be taken to the Kansas Legislature’s web site page for that particular bill.  You will be able to see all actions taken, read the bill, and read any supplemental notes (layman’s descriptions) and fiscal notes (how much does the bill cost the state) that have been prepared.