KEPC UPDATE: School finance verdict, economy recovering with warning about ag, correction

In this issue …

  • Waiting on the school finance verdict
  • Kansas economy is recovering but economists warn about ag
  • Correction
  • BILL TRACKER

 

Waiting on the school finance verdict

Legislative observers will be watching Friday to see if the Kansas Supreme Court issues a ruling on the constitutionality of the latest legislation on school finance.  The court’s decisions usually come out on Friday.

At stake is whether the court allows school funding for next year to go forward.  In its ruling last October, the court said:

“…while we stay the issuance of today’s mandate through June 30, 2018, after that date we will not allow ourselves to be placed in the position of being complicit actors in the continuing deprivation of a constitutionally adequate and equitable education owed to hundreds of thousands of Kansas school children.”

That could mean the court will issue an order that school funding for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, cannot take place if funding is not constitutional.  That would force the legislature to return in special session.  July 1 is only about 22 days away.

Oral arguments were held before the court in May, where justices seemed disinclined to accept the legislature’s actions as constitutional.

The lawyer for the school districts suing the state said in that hearing that the legislature’s action is far short of constitutional.  The lawyer for the Kansas Attorney General, who is defending the lawsuit, said funding will have increased more than a billion dollars over six years.

 

Kansas economy is recovering but economists warn about ag

Kansas tax revenues for May were over $100 million above estimates.  Receipts for the current fiscal year are now $168 million above estimates issued in April by the state’s official estimating group made up of economists and state officials.

The so-called “long form” of those estimates has now been published and contains good news and bad for the economy.

The report says jobs are being added and they adjusted their economic growth predictions upward.

Here’s part of the report:

“Most economic variables and indicators have been adjusted slightly upward since the Consensus Group last convened in November. While the U.S. and Kansas economies continue to grow, uncertainty remains as a number of economic indicators are estimated to show only modest improvements over the next few years. Significant concerns exist for the economy as a whole relative to volatility in energy prices, tariffs or possible trade war effects on agricultural commodity prices, and consumer and business demand for products and services subject to sales taxation.”

The report included this warning about agriculture:

“However, crop prices have continued to struggle, even as above-average yields have supported overall cash receipts. Agricultural lending has been increasing since last fall. This added debt, coupled with increasing interest rates, could signal added stress and repayment issues down the road. Net farm income throughout the forecast period is expected to remain significantly below levels seen as recently as 2014. Current drought conditions and the potential of a developing trade war could cause a downside risk to the current net farm income projections from the Department of Agriculture.”

You can read the entire long form revenue estimate document here.

 

Correction

In our story about the budget in a newsletter last month, we provided incorrect information because that’s what we received.  The budget story said the legislature had added funds to advance the 23 Kansas highway projects that were delayed a few years ago due to severe budget problems.  That statement is untrue.

The legislature added some minor funding but certainly not enough the pay for the millions of dollars in delayed projects.

 

Bill tracking

Here’s our bill tracker list of where legislation we have been following ended up this session.  This should now be complete with any bills signed or vetoed by Governor Colyer.