Archive for Friday, February 4, 2011

Kansas House gives early approval to budget ‘pay-go’ provision, secret caucus meetings

February 4, 2011


— House Republicans ran over Democrats on Friday, giving preliminary approval of rules that will allow secret caucus meetings and a so-called “pay-go” provision that will require any spending increase to be offset by a cut elsewhere in the budget.

Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said the budget provision was needed to control spending.

“This rule is a key first step in getting the fiscal house of Kansas back in order,” he said.

But Democrats said the proposal puts too much power in the hands of House Appropriations Committee members because the House couldn’t exceed the bottom line of any budget produced by a majority on the 23-member committee, or 12 members.

“We are taking away the power of the constituents that we represent,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. “What’s going on today is a power grab. This is a very slippery slope.”

Democrats also argued pay-go was unnecessary to curb spending because the Legislature can’t deficit spend, and must balance the state budget.

The measure won first-round approval 74-34. All 74 votes for the new rules were cast by Republicans. Of the 34 votes opposed, 31 were Democrats and three were Republicans. Seventeen members were absent. A final vote is set for Monday.

Under House Resolution 6004, any amendment on the House floor to an appropriations bill that increases spending would require a corresponding cut elsewhere. The measure would effectively cap spending to the amount decided by the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

Republicans said the rule would provide the discipline needed to cut the budget as legislators face an estimated $550 million revenue shortfall.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, who was not present in the Legislature on Friday, released a statement after the rules were approved, saying, “By passing budget reform at the state level, the House is taking the first step towards the fundamental changes needed to ensure the long-term fiscal health of our state.”

But Democrats argued that the rules would make it difficult to allocate funds during emergencies, such as snowstorms or tornadoes, or take advantage of unforeseen federal dollars.

Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-Kansas City, tried to add an amendment that would have required any tax cut be offset by a tax increase or budget cut elsewhere to ensure the move was revenue neutral. But Republicans defeated that proposal.

The new rules also allow the House majority leader and House minority leader to close their respective caucus.

“I have a problem denying the press and denying the public access,” said Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka.

Republicans argued much of the business of the Legislature is done behind closed doors, but legislators’ votes are public.

Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, who is chair of the House Rules Committee, said he hopes the new rule to allow closed caucus meetings is rarely used.

“I think we need to have our meetings open,” he said.

Davis said he would keep the House Democratic caucus open to the press and public.

The new rules will probably be in place when the House takes up an appropriations bill on Tuesday. The Senate doesn’t have a “pay-go” provision.


Scruggsy 7 years, 4 months ago

I see no reason for there to be a "secret caucus meeting". EVER. I don't know a lot about government workings, but it sure does sound un-American to me... What's the big secret?

gudpoynt 7 years, 4 months ago

Seriously. It's easy to speculate on what might go on in a secret caucus meeting and what that might entail. But they might as well already be secret to 97% of the public who has never witnessed or read a transcript from a caucus meeting.

Perhaps the reason why most of us don't pay close attention to what goes on in caucus meetings is because the press is there to report anything newsworthy. Aren't they? Does anybody know if the measure intends to shut out or restrict the press?

I imagine it's more about political strategizing. Legislating is serious business, but it is also very much a game between two distinct competitors. Keeping your strategy secret is an obviously beneficial tactic.

Regardless, I'd like to see the "official" argument for allowing closed caucuses. Surely there is some explanation that is at least somewhat publicly acceptable.

Then again, I wonder how many legislators who put an "R" after their name uttered the phrase "crammed down our throats" within the past two years. And I wonder how many have thought "now it's our turn" in 2011. Supermajorities and bipartisanship are akin to superheroes and their alter egos: they can never be seen together.

Scruggsy 7 years, 4 months ago

"I have a problem denying the press and denying the public access"... Me too!!!

Why is this being changed? Anything that is being said in that chamber should be public knowledge. If they want to have a meeting in some other venue to discuss "secret strategy", so be it...

I am so not into politics, but THIS just sounds so wrong to me. If anything, there needs to be more public access to what the hell goes on over there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

" I'd like to see the "official" argument for allowing closed caucuses."

Here's the unofficial, but honest argument--

If you all knew what we are doing and why, you'd be horrified at the level of corruption that's involved.

gudpoynt 7 years, 4 months ago

can't be bozo.

there's always a somewhat legitimate reason. Take the unseen specter of voter fraud. Ridiculous, yes. But somewhat plausible, sure.

Surely they have some rationale behind why closed caucuses might somehow benefit us as Kansans.

I'd like to hear from anybody with a sound argument.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

Must be because they are plotting to lynch all the white members of congress, right, kubacker?

At any rate, that's the US Congress, not the state legislature. It's irrelevant to this situation.

Brock Masters 7 years, 4 months ago

Reason obvious to me. You need a time to openly discuss legislation without fear that your uncensored words will be reported and used against you. They are not secret meetings they are private. And, not all meetings will be private.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

"You need a time to openly discuss legislation without fear that your uncensored words will be reported and used against you."

That's nonsense. If you can't discuss an issue without engaging in language that needs censoring, you have no right being in the legislature. If you want a job doing the people's business, the people have a right to know precisely what you're doing and saying.

Brock Masters 7 years, 4 months ago

The language doesn't need censoring, but working through an issue does not need to be public if you want open and unfettered discussion.

For example, the Speaker wants to push an issue, but some legislators don't want it to go forward so they speak up and convince him to let it go. But add a reporter to the mix and you'll probably not have the legislators so quick to speak against the Speaker knowing it will be reported and the speaker wont be as likely to give in knowing that the reporter will report that he backed down after his caucus spoke against him.

gudpoynt 7 years, 4 months ago

I think the argument that a paygo measure would incapacitate the state to respond to emergencies is bogus. Even stingy conservatives will pony up state funds in an emergency.

However, to argue for paygo under the guise of fiscal responsibility without taking similar measures for cuts in tax revenue is blatantly duplicitous. Which is not surprising, they are politicians after all. But it's just so out in the open, and clearly ignores half of what it means to be fiscally conservative.

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

Yes - I thought the same thing about tax cuts.

weeslicket 7 years, 4 months ago

just because i think it's funny: "Republicans said the rule would provide the discipline needed to cut the budget..."

sometimes in the kansas, in which i have lived for a while now, the state elects a democractic governor. mostly when the moderate republicans (e.g., rinos) of this state, pull ranks from the conservative republicans (e.g., kindly suppy your own descriptor now) of the state.

never have i experienced a democratic house, or senate. so, that begs a rather inconvenient question: who, really, needs to learn ecomonic discipline?

also, budgets are balanced through the both inflow of funds, and the outflow of funds. over time once again, where might our problem lie? (funny word, that)

pace 7 years, 4 months ago

"The new rules also allow the House majority leader and House minority leader to close their respective caucus." I think it is ok. There are some serious privacy issues. The Koch brothers are private citizens and when they need to speak at a meeting, they don't need the whole world to hear it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

What really needs to happen is a significant cut in sales and property taxes, accompanied by an somewhat larger increase in corporate income taxes and personal income taxes on upper income brackets.

But they make sizable campaign contributions to ensure that no such thing ever happens. And they'll get what they wish for. For now.

texburgh 7 years, 4 months ago

O'Neal and the Republicans need closed caucus meetings so when they fawn over their invited caucus guests - Koch mouthpiece Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute, Koch-endowed "professor of business" Art Hall, Koch funded Americans For Prosperity Executive Director Derrick Sontag, and Koch-owned state Budget Director Steve Anderson who writes model state budgets for Koch's Americans for Prosperity - the press can't witness these "representatives of the people" bowing and kneeling before their true masters.

question4u 7 years, 4 months ago

Secrecy? How does that contribute to accountability in government? Shouldn't we have a right to know what our elected representatives are doing? What is it that they don't want us to know about? Honesty, integrity and responsibility don't require secrecy.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

I think we need to spread the word on this. Anyone who voted for not being transparent should be voted out next election. This is disgusting. Will people really accept this, just because it's a Republican idea? What do they have to hide?

jafs 7 years, 4 months ago

The question of whether those who voted for these candidates will hold them accountable for anything they do is interesting to me.

So far, it seems as though that won't be the case.

Jimo 7 years, 4 months ago

"The measure would effectively cap spending to the amount decided by the budget-writing Appropriations Committee."

Wouldn't it be more efficient if the Kansas Dictator was a single individual rather than a group?

Where in the Kansas Constitution does the power to appoint a budget dictator exist? It doesn't. So much for the oath of office!

The Constitutional rule is you need a majority of 108 in the House to pass a bill not a majority of 23. This power grab strips from the people the representation guaranteed to them by the Constitution. If 54 House members agree to increase spending in a bill, that's it - the bill is passed - the budget committee be damned.

texburgh 7 years, 4 months ago

While you make some good points, you should know that the Kansas house is 125 members and it takes 63 to increase (or decrease) spending. At least it did until the Republicans decided it was better if that power rested with 12 members - a majority of the Appropriations Committee.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

The libs have never been in power in the Kansas Congress. Who is planning to rein them in?

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

Where are all the conservative apologists who usually defend their people in Congress? What have you got to say about all these secret meetings? Maybe, "It's not necessary to know what we are doing. We'll take good care of you. Nothing to see here, move on. Trust us."

tir 7 years, 4 months ago

I think this whole Secret Meeting idea is as stinky, suspicious, and thoroughly repugnant as the Repugnicans who proposed it. Why should we trust them? Obviously they have something to hide, which they are afraid to let the citizens of Kansas know about. Why else would they want to plot behind closed doors? Are we really going to let them get away with this?

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

I sure don't hear any Republicans trying to defend this. Are you all just going to follow along like little sheep? Where are your guts? Do you really believe this is a good thing? You voted for these people, so tell me what is going on here. I want to hear you defend this. Are you going to let this happen?

quik 7 years, 4 months ago

I see this news writer moving more toward spin and opinion with each article he writes. The first line is, "House Republicans ran over Democrats on Friday." So, are we to take that literally or is that an opinion? How is that in keeping with what the LJW claims they stand for? "No mixing of editorial opinion with reporting of the news"

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

quik, Good Republican strategy to change the subject. How about defending this secret meetings crud? Actually there is no defense for it, only changing the subject. First there is no disclosure of who is funding campaign and issue ads, now they want to meet behind closed doors. They aren't even pretending anymore that they no longer represent the people who vote for them, but the little sheep will still keep voting for them, just because they have that Republican label next to their name.

tomatogrower 7 years, 4 months ago

Well, I'm not sure where Cato the Elder, Tom Shewmon, CorkyH, and all of the other conservatives are, and why they aren't defending their leaders. This seems like a very serious breach of good government, but they sure are silent on the matter. Have your pundits not told you how to respond? Is it really ok with you that they be allowed to meet without the press being there? This isn't some kind of national security intelligence gathering CIA, high security operation, you know. This is our state government, and we should be privy to all that's said. What say you, conservatives? What is the rational? Why shouldn't Democrats use this against the Republicans in the next election? I'm going to make sure all my Republican friends know about this. Several of them aren't sheep, and will be angered by this.

WilburNether 7 years, 4 months ago

Only a dishonest reporter and newspaper would misrepresent caucus meetings as being "secret" when, in fact, they are announced in public, but simply closed to attendance by non-members -- just like any elected body meeting in an executive session.

That is dishonest "reporting," LJW. If you fancy yourselves to be "journalists," then how about being honest, accurate, and objective?

Shame on the lot of you.

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