Topeka Kansas legislators are modifying a proposal from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to establish a fund to cover the state’s share of federally declared disasters.
Brownback wants to use $12 million from taxes collected each year on insurance premiums to establish what essentially would be a rainy day fund for disasters that cause extensive damage to infrastructure and property.
The goal is to avoid a repeat of last year, when lawmakers adjourned without financing $27 million the state owed for its share of disaster-related expenses, the bulk of which was owed to rural electric cooperatives.
Typically, federal funds cover 75 percent of disaster-related costs, local entities, including municipalities and nongovernment entities, pay 15 percent, and the state covers the final 10 percent.
Senators have proposed adding another $10 million per year to the disaster fund by tapping into fees the Kansas Universal Service Fund collects on wireless and land-line telecommunications. An additional fee would be charged on customers’ monthly bills to cover the expense, similar to how the state funds emergency communication services, such as 911 operations.
Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler said the administration seemed to be OK with expanding the fund.
“If you look at the 14 open disaster (cases) that we have, if that total amount comes due this next fiscal year, $12 million is a little over half of what we need,” said Emler, a Lindsborg Republican.