The following editorial is attributed to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka:
The Kansas Legislature reconvenes for Veto Session next Monday, May 1, and all of the major issues remain: a budget, a revenue package, and a school funding formula.
Shortly before leaving for break, the Senate passed a budget on a vote of 25-15. It’s not a perfect budget, but it is a solid start.
It does not include funding for Medicaid expansion, K-12 education, the highway fund, or the water plan. However, it begins to restore cuts to higher education and ensures the stability of the Children’s Initiatives Fund by not securitizing the tobacco settlement funds. It also gives state employees a pay increase and provides a rate increase to Home and Community Based Services, which helps elderly and disabled Kansans receive quality care in their homes.
The House and Senate budget committees are scheduled to begin meeting Thursday and Friday of this week. It is my hope the House committee will pass the Senate budget out for full House consideration as early as next week.
The Senate budget is $400 million short for Fiscal Year 2018 and nearly $500 million short for Fiscal Year 2019 without a revenue package. With a revenue package like House Bill 2178, which passed earlier this session, the budget would end up with a surplus of more than $200 million for each fiscal year. This makes it critical for the Legislature to reconsider a plan like HB 2178.
In addition to providing funding for the Senate budget, the Legislature must pass a school funding formula that provides constitutional levels of funding to K-12 schools. The Senate has not proposed a formula, and if something gets proposed during veto session, there will not be time to fully vet it. This is not how a formula should be passed. Instead, consideration should be given to what the House passes. They have worked all session to develop a formula, holding countless hearings and receiving buy-in from some education stakeholders.
Ultimately, though, none of these issues can be resolved without support from 27 Senators and 84 House members, the amount needed to override a veto from Governor Brownback.