Kansas Gov. Colyer signs budget bill, with a number of line-item vetoes

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a new spending bill into law Tuesday that phases in $525 million in new spending for public schools over five years and restores $15 million in funding previously cut from state colleges and universities.

But he also issued a number of line-item vetoes, including one proviso that was intended to prevent his administration from making changes in eligibility requirements for the state’s Medicaid program.

Colyer hosted bill-signing ceremonies Tuesday at Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University and Kansas State University. But the list of line-item vetoes was not made public until late Tuesday afternoon.

“I am pleased to be able to sign a budget that strikes the balance between fiscal responsibility and making the necessary investments in our schools, our workforce and our communities,” he said in a statement. “It has been exciting to see the progress our state has made over the past few months, and I look forward to seeing the incredible impact these investments will have on our state.”

Overall, the spending bill that lawmakers approved at the end of the 2018 session adds about $1 billion in new spending, above what lawmakers approved in the initial two-year spending plan they adopted in 2017. Much of that is for the increased funding for K-12 public schools and funding increasing costs for health care and other social services.

That new spending was made possible, in large part, by the increased revenues the state has received since the 2017 Legislature overrode then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill reversing course on the controversial income tax cuts he had championed five years earlier.

Colyer was serving as Brownback’s lieutenant governor at that time. He rose to the governor’s office after Brownback stepped down in January to accept a diplomatic post in the Trump administration, and he is now running for a full four-year term of his own.

In his statement about the bill signing, Colyer did not specifically mention the reversal of Brownback’s tax policies, but acknowledged that the state “is getting back on the right track.”

“I am honored to serve as the governor of this great state, and I pledge to continue to fight to ensure we succeed in offering the best service possible to the people of Kansas,” he said.

Colyer also used his line-item veto authority to strike 10 provisions of the bill, including one aimed at preventing him from making any changes in Medicaid eligibility without legislative approval.

That proviso said that if the administration made any such changes without legislative approval, all funding for the state’s Medicaid program would be lapsed.

In his veto message, Colyer said that proviso was unnecessary because another portion of the bill contains language that essentially does the same thing. It prohibits the spending of any money from any source to pay the costs of preparing or submitting an application to the federal government to make any substantive changes in the privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare without prior legislative approval.

Both provisions in the bill were intended to block the administration from launching what Colyer has called “KanCare 2.0,” which would make major changes in state Medicaid policy, including imposing work requirements on some Medicaid patients.

Colyer also deleted $11,833.60 from the Kansas Highway Patrol’s budget to pay the claim of someone who alleged that amount of money was improperly seized in 1995 and was turned over to the federal government.

“Adherence to the rule of law requires that such matters be properly adjudicated in the courts,” Colyer said in the veto statement. “The individual in question here could have sought recovery against the proper parties in the proper forums, but either failed to so or did not do so successfully.”

A number of other line-item vetoes related to enhanced funding that lawmakers approved for programs in the Department of Commerce that are funded with proceeds from the state lottery. Colyer said lawmakers overspent from that source of money, and the programs will continue to receive their regular funding.


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