KEPC UPDATE: 2018 session begins with uncertanty; Kansans want Medicaid expansion

In this issue …

  • 2018 legislative session begins with uncertainty
  • Kansas Speaks Survey: Kansans want Medicaid Expansion


2018 legislative session begins with uncertainty

The 2018 Kansas Legislature began today (Monday), facing a Kansas Supreme Court decision that could mean up to an additional $600 million needs to be spent on K-12 education.

The Kansas Supreme Court said in October the Legislature’s 2017 school finance law is unconstitutional.  The Court gave lawmakers until June 30, 2018 to bring the funding into compliance.  Oral arguments on whatever the 2018 Legislature does are scheduled for May 22, 2018.

The opinion seems to indicate funding is about $74 per pupil short of constitutional.  The Court also struck down two other provisions:

  • Allowing districts to use capital outlay funds for utility and other expenses.
  • A provision that subjects some districts to a protest and election process to raise local option budget limits.

There are a variety of ideas out there on how to proceed:

  • Defy the court and/or change the constitution, which some more conservative legislators would like to do. However, as one lawyer in the legislature recently said, “The trial is over.  We are in the contempt phase.”  In other words, the Court will decide whether the Kansas Legislature is in contempt of court and take action.
  • Work on a phase-in of additional spending. This seems to be the most likely option.  Trying to find funding after the 2012 income tax cuts siphoned off significant funding that has resulted in noteworthy cuts to state services that need to be restored (prisons, child care, transportation, economic development, higher education) will be very difficult.  However, revenues have been coming in higher than estimated and the economy seems to be taking a turn for the better.  In the past, the Court has allowed a phase-in of additional education dollars.  Most likely, the Court would keep jurisdiction in the case to make sure the Legislature would keep its commitment.
  • Raise taxes on the wealthy. This is a recurring theme I’ve been hearing from some Democrats.  The argument goes like this:  Business and the wealthy just got a big tax break from the federal government.  They can afford to pay to the state more.  However, many Republicans say it’s unlikely the Legislature will raise taxes in an election year.

The House Taxation Committee met Monday where Committee Chairman Steve Johnson (R-Assaria) said the committee will spend the next several days going over the November consensus estimates.  Johnson said the committee may look at different taxes and increments.  He also indicated another major tax increase would not be easy and he’s not sure it would get the votes necessary to pass.

“We will have to take a cautionary position,” Johnson said, adding that lawmakers don’t want to go too far too fast “like we did in 2012,” the year of the income tax cuts.

Johnson said the committee will have to watch the new federal tax cuts and, “if you have a plan, now is the time to put it forward.  Let’s not wait until March.”

The committee will probably not meet again until next week.

Meanwhile, attention will turn to Governor Sam Brownback’s final State of the State Message Tuesday evening at 5 p.m., where lawmakers will be curious to know Brownback’s ideas for dealing with the education decision by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Many legislators fear Brownback will continue to say the state has a spending problem and will propose cuts, or more likely, delays in funding KPERS or other state obligations.

The Governor’s Budget Director, Shawn Sullivan, will brief the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday morning on Brownback’s proposals.

Committees will also be spending the week looking at the education ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court and begin discussing at how to respond.

Here’s a calendar that looks at the schedule for the Kansas Legislature over the next several months.


Kansas Speaks Survey:  Kansans want Medicaid Expansion

The latest Kansas Speaks Survey done by the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University contains a wealth of information on what Kansans think on a variety of issues.

One of the most surprising findings is that 69 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supported expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  For the past several years, many in the legislature have resisted expanding Medicaid and Governor Brownback has worked to block expansion.

In a related finding only 28 percent support repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), even if it is not replaced.  However, 36 percent support repeal only if replaced, while another 36 percent outright opposed repealing the Act.

Other items of interest in the survey:

  • What Kansans think about the quality of life in the state
  • What Kansans favor to balance the state budget (including tax increases)
  • How residents rate Donald Trump
  • What Kansans think of Governor Brownback and other politicians in the state, including a somewhat surprising ranking of candidates for Governor

You can read the entire survey here.