Sometime Friday afternoon the state’s official financial gurus — the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group — will meet and come to agreement on just how much money the state will receive in the remaining few months of this fiscal year and next fiscal year which starts July 1.
That memo, called CRE, will be not quite as big a deal as a puff of white smoke rising above the Vatican, but for Kansas government/legislative/political purposes it will be close. Very close.
That estimate of revenue becomes the official estimate of revenue and everything that happens after it is announced is tied to that estimate.
Right or wrong, high or low, it’s the basis for nearly everything going to happen to or for Kansans for the fiscal year.
The issues to be decided based on those estimates are school finance, of course, and a potential income tax cut for some Kansans, investments in water supply, highway improvements/repair and the pensions of thousands of Kansans who are members of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. Oh, and don’t forget health care for thousands of Kansans and payments for hospitals and nursing homes that take care of the elderly and frail.
A lot of issues based on that Friday afternoon meeting? Sure are, and the number that the CRE presents also will influence legislators — the entire House of Representatives, which is up for election this fall.
How does that figure into life for folks who don’t spend their day hanging around the Statehouse? It determines just what the state can afford and can’t afford and that determines just what legislators can pass or not pass that will make Kansans’ lives better or at least no worse.
Schools are of course at the top of the list, and there is that roughly $80 million inadvertently left out of the school finance bill that Gov. Jeff Colyer will sign into law this week. Sign a bill to boost state aid to elementary and secondary schools that doesn’t include all the money that lawmakers thought they were spending? Yes, because that bill, though it doesn’t contain all the dollars it should, also put lawmakers on the hook for it. They will have to pony up the money to accomplish what they thought they were voting on to convince the Kansas Supreme Court that they actually intend to make state funding for public schools constitutional. Not much backing out room there, is there?
But the other major issue that is dependent on that CRE will be an income tax cut for thousands of Kansans, because the state can’t cut taxes — that’s taxes for most of us, and revenue for the state — without an estimate that shows the state can afford it. And who doesn’t want a tax cut, and the bullet point on those House members’ palm cards that shows that they cut your taxes?
It’s a federal trickle-down deal, the less federal income taxes you pay the more of your money is left sitting around to levy state income taxes against. And, if the CRE comes in big enough, well, the state won’t need to tax that cash left over from your federal taxes, and it will appear that the state isn’t just gobbling up the federal tax leftovers.
Enough money for schools and a tax cut? What’s still on the plate can be spent for those roads, the water supply, care for the elderly and poor, law enforcement, prisons, a lot of things that have been scrimped on in recent years. If the CRE says the money is there.
Yes…Friday afternoon. We’ll see how that works out, won’t we…?
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report