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Archive for Monday, March 22, 2010

State leaders to debate budget cuts; other news from the Kansas Statehouse

March 22, 2010

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Both the House and Senate this week are planning to debate proposed budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The one before the Senate will require approximately $100 million in cuts and $300 million in new taxes, although proposals to raise those taxes failed last week in the Senate tax committee.

The spending plan before the House keeps the lid on state taxes but will include more cuts to schools, a 5 percent state employee pay cut (except to regents universities), and reductions in other areas of the budget.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said of the measure, “I believe this budget proposal will be dead on arrival when it comes to the House floor.” To kill it would require the expected opposition of all 49 Democrats and for at least 14 of the 76 Republicans to buck their leaders.

One interesting item that may be tried during Senate debate is an amendment to sell state assets, such as office buildings, and then lease them back. Some other states have done this to generate upfront revenue to fill budget holes, but opponents of this say it ends up costing more in the long run.

Quote of the week

These roads aren’t free and they aren’t cheap.”

— Former Gov. Mike Hayden, who was talking about the need for a new state transportation plan. Hayden is now secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

What’s next

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, to respond to misconduct complaint, before House Select Investigative Committee, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Room 159-South, Capitol.

Health amendment on life support

A proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to block any federal requirement that Kansans purchase health insurance is on the ropes.

Two committee votes on Senate Concurrent Resolution 1626 have resulted in ties, which means the measure doesn’t advance. When the issue was in subcommittee it also was locked in two tie votes. The only way it advanced to the full committee was to downgrade the constitutional amendment to a non-binding resolution.

But as they say in the Capitol, nothing ever dies under the dome. A companion measure is still percolating in the House.

Any amendment to the Kansas Constitution would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate and then be put before Kansas voters. Supporters of the proposal say it is needed to protect Kansans from health reform requirements passed by Congress. But opponents say the legality any federal health reform legislation will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court based on the U.S. Constitution, regardless of anything states adopt.

New allegation against O’Neal proves false

An allegation made last week against House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, now appears to have been based on some miscommunication.

Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby and chairman of the House Government Efficiency and Fiscal Oversight Committee, had, according to several accounts, told committee members that O’Neal objected to the committee looking into a dispute involving the company that manages the prescription drug plan for state employees.

But Morrison later said O’Neal only cautioned about giving the committee the power to subpoena records and witnesses.

Morrison now says the committee will hold some hearings on the dispute, and O’Neal says he has no problem with that.

The issue came up in a House investigative committee looking into an unrelated misconduct complaint against O’Neal. House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence repeated the secondhand allegation that O’Neal objected to Morrison’s committee looking into the drug management company, which O’Neal vehemently denied.

Asked about raising the allegation about O’Neal, Davis said, “I was relaying what had been told to me by four members of (Morrison’s) committee. I thought it was relevant to the discussion.”

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