As usually is the case, the major piece of work facing the Kansas Legislature when it returned for its wrap-up session Wednesday was completion of a budget for the coming fiscal year.
There probably are a few other matters that need to be cleaned up in the next week or so — for instance, people concerned about individuals with developmental disabilities would like to see a favorable resolution in how in-home services are handled for that population — but for the most part, legislators should try to concentrate on resolving the budget, then head home.
Too often in recent years, legislators have used what once was called the “veto session” to push through measures that got hung up for various reasons earlier in the session. Such measures this year reportedly could include an important constitutional amendment that would alter the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are appointed and a bill that would give the Kansas Secretary of State the power to bypass county prosecutors and initiate his own cases involving suspected voter fraud in the state.
Both of these issues — and likely others — deserve more discussion and consideration than they will receive in a rushed wrap-up session that often is marked by legislators cutting deals and, perhaps, making hasty decisions.
It’s not like legislators and the governor won’t have their hands full with budget talks and accompanying tax negotiations. Gov. Brownback reportedly is meeting with the leaders of both houses to try to hammer out a compromise on how to balance next year’s budget. The Kansas House is lukewarm to plans to keep the state sales tax at its current level, but Brownback is dug in on the need to retain sales tax revenue to offset reduced income tax revenue and prevent further budget cuts in other areas.
Funding for higher education also is very much in play. Although Brownback has just finished a statewide tour touting his support for higher education, his proposal for flat funding for state universities may become a negotiating chip with the House and Senate, which are advocating 4 percent and 2 percent cuts, respectively, in higher education funding.
The one piece of business on the legislative agenda that simply can’t wait is completion of the budget. Rather than dive into other issues that might benefit from more consideration next year, legislators should concentrate on the task at hand, finish their budget negotiations and call it a day.