Archive for Sunday, March 17, 2013

Capitol Report: Higher education cuts, pension changes, proof of citizenship

March 17, 2013


Republican budget plans would cut higher ed

Republican budget plans teed up for debate in the House and Senate this week will take whacks at higher education in Kansas.

The plan approved in the House Appropriations Committee would apply a 4 percent across-the-board cut to higher education, which would total $29.2 million, and impose a cap on wages and salaries. A 4 percent cut in state funding to Kansas University would equal nearly $10 million and put state funding at KU below 2006 levels.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee plan would cut higher education by 2 percent, reduce by half the state's $5 million annual commitment to the KU Cancer Center, and cut $10 million that Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed for the KU Medical Center for a new health education building.

The proposed cuts in spending are driven by Republican plans to reduce spending to coincide with a reduction in revenues from a proposed cut to the state income tax.

Brownback administration seeks further pension changes

Why are Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Nobel Laureate professor Robert Merton and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley testifying in support of a state Senate bill that deals with a fund transfer to the Kansas Highway Patrol?

Because Senate Bill 117 will become a vehicle used to consider a plan design for overhauling the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, and chairman of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

According to the Capital-Journal article, Bradley and Merton are affiliated with Dimensional Fund Advisors, an Austin-based investment firm led by Kansas University donor David Booth, who recently made headlines for purchasing the original rules of basketball for $4.3 million.

DFA offers a 401(k)-style retirement plan that conservative Republicans have expressed an interest in for state employees.

The newspaper reported that Gov. Sam Brownback, Colyer, State Treasurer Ron Estes, Kansas Public Employee Retirement System Executive Director Alan Conroy, Budget Director Steve Anderson, Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, and Johnson met with Booth and others earlier this month.

The hearing on Senate Bill 117 is at 9 a.m. Monday before the House Pensions and Benefits Committee in Room 152-South.

Arizona voting law challenge could affect Kansas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments to a challenge to an Arizona law that requires residents there to show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before voting in national elections.

The case could have implications for Kansas and other states that have similar requirements.

Supporters of the law say it is needed to prevent noncitizens from voting, while opponents say the law makes it more difficult for eligible voters to vote, specifically minorities and the elderly.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected in June.

As of Jan. 1, people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas must provide documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship.

Quote of the week:

"The United States belongs to the citizens of Kansas, not the other way around."

— State Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, in support of a bill that would put federal officers in jeopardy of arrest if they tried to enforce a federal law on a gun owned or manufactured in Kansas that stays in the state.

What's next:


9 a.m. — Possible vote on House Bill 2384, dismantling classified employment system, before House Appropriations, Room 112-North.

3:30 p.m. — Higher education institutions and economic development agencies will speak against the salary and wage cap for higher education, Room 546-South.


1:30 p.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 149, drug screening for recipients of cash assistance and unemployment benefits, before House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Hearing on House Bill 2192, repealing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Hearing on Senate Bill 141, prohibiting abortions based on gender of unborn, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.


9 a.m. — Vote on Senate Bill 141, prohibiting abortions based on gender of unborn, before House Federal and State Affairs Committee, Room 346-South.


chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

A salary cap and gutting KPERs to turn it into a crappy 401k? Why, I bet that will have highly qualified faculty just flocking to Kansas universities. What a great plan!

tir 5 years, 2 months ago

The salary cap would certainly affect all faculty and staff whose salaries are paid by the state, but faculty and university professional staff (unclassified) have TIAA-CREF for retirement, not KPERS. Changes to KPERS would affect only university support staff (formerly State of Kansas classified employees).

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

At KU, but my understanding is that other institutions have different rules about who is eligible for KPERS. Even so, having your highly qualified support staff leave like rats deserting a sinking ship isn't exactly going to attract qualified faculty, either.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

If you work in IT, like all the people on campus who administer the servers and handle other related IT tasks? I just googled, and there are 148 open listings for server administrators in Kansas City alone. Go ahead. Hire a low wage and inexperienced worker to handle your sensitive student data and see how well that works out for your campus.

elliottaw 5 years, 2 months ago

yup, I would say pretty much all have 401k

thinkinganalytically 5 years, 2 months ago

That has been the case for at least the last twenty years.

question4u 5 years, 2 months ago

"The United States belongs to the citizens of Kansas, not the other way around."

The actions of the current Kansas legislature suggest that a more accurate statement would be: "Kansas doesn't belong in the United States."

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 2 months ago

Obviously, Brett Hildabrand, a lawmaker, never read the US Constitution. How typical of a Teapublican to put it in terms of "ownership". The US is, to quote Lincoln, a government "of the people, by the people , for the people" and no one "owns" it. On the other hand, there are plenty of legislators who are owned by their corporate overlords. who bankroll them.
if Mr. Hildabrand and his majority cohort in the Kansas legislature wish to secede from the United States in a snit fit, I suggest they do so. No one will miss them or Kansas.

fu7il3 5 years, 2 months ago

I always thought Republicans believed in a free market. What's with the salary caps?

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

If you've set out to prove that government is incompetent by running the government incompetently...

Michael LoBurgio 5 years, 2 months ago

Brownbacks Promises, schmomises

Cheered on by Gov. Sam Brownback, the 2013 Kansas Senate voted last week to make liars of the 2010 Legislature and then-Gov. Mark Parkinson – by supporting extension of a sales-tax increase scheduled to sunset June 30.

Other proposals would further treat the $8.2 billion, 10-year transportation plan like money free for the taking, though Brownback once said the state should seek alternatives to massive sweeps of highway funding. Also wobbly are the state’s commitments to funding for K-12 public schools, higher education, social services, gambling-addiction help, a college-savings matching plan for low-income students, and more.

Promises, schmomises.

The Statehouse priority this year and for the foreseeable future is paying for last year’s rash tax-cut plan. The governor and his allies are seizing any revenue and budget cuts they can find to keep the state moving further down the path toward eliminating the state’s income tax while maintaining a 7.5 percent ending balance – come what may for Kansas.

The Brownback-blessed, Senate-passed tax plan would enable the state to collect an extra $316 million in fiscal 2014, thanks to the continuation of the higher sales-tax rate and a 24 percent cut to income-tax deductions. It’s unlikely that the plan will win approval in the House, where many lawmakers oppose turning a temporary sales-tax hike into a permanent one and also favor cutting the budget into balance. A rival proposal offered last week in the House by Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, would let the sales-tax rate drop but make further income-tax cuts dependent on revenue growth of more than 2 percent a year – too slowly for many Republicans.

But even if the Senate bill did pass the House, $50 million or more still would need to be cut from the 2014 budget, according to Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson.

Of course, before it’s all over, even legislators who champion K-12 schools and look out for social services funding may favor the higher sales tax rather than see those budget areas further slashed and local governments forced to raise property taxes.

Some of them used the five-hour Senate debate last week to highlight the harm done to poor Kansans by last year’s tax plan, which eliminated a food sales-tax rebate that benefited the working poor, a child-care tax credit, the homestead refund for renters, and credits targeting the disabled. As it is, only one (Mississippi) of the 14 states that tax food sales does so at a higher rate than Kansas.

Read more here:

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 2 months ago

"As of Jan. 1, people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas must provide documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove citizenship."

What's wrong with the government using due process instead when it wants to disenfranchise me from my vote?

elliottaw 5 years, 2 months ago

Or KU could turn it down and just decide to move they main campus to the Edwards Campus with better classrooms and newer technology and leave Lawrence a ghost town.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Not enough room. They can't buy more land at that location, and there's no on campus housing.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 2 months ago

Why is it when "pension reform" is discussed, a bunch of connected rich guys show up? If on the one hand most of the "experts" say that the average person should simply be invested in a diversified portfolio consisting primarily/exclusively of an S&P index fund, contribute regularly and not try to time the market - what do we need these other guys for?

globehead 5 years, 2 months ago

A friend of mine from a distant state told me last year that where he lives, Kansas has become the laughing stock of the nation. Today, I can safely report that Kansas has become the laughing stock of itself.

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