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SPOTLIGHT
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Kansas' rolling-budget experiment

Published on -6/25/2013, 1:48 PM

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Kansas lawmakers, at the request of Gov. Sam Brownback, this year passed the first two-year budget in recent history.

That means the state has a spending plan -- like it or not, talk among yourselves -- for the fiscal year that starts this July 1, and for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2014.

Now, does that seem to be a big deal? We'll see.

The key to a two-year budget, of course, is that in its second year, we figure that the basics of operating state government and providing the services to Kansans that they want are pretty much sketched out.

There will be changes, of course, something always comes up, maybe a bridge washes out (cause for celebration in western Kansas) or we learn the state has put more money into some program it really needs. There will be changes, count on it.

But the two-year budget also presents an interesting political morality test for the administration. There are two-year budgets and there are two-year budgets.

So, one way to do it is to budget for this year and next year and then, just after the next gubernatorial election, budget for the first two years of a new term ... whoever is governor. That's a pretty standard two-year budget. When a new governor comes into office, he/she gets to plan out -- quickly because the governor still will be moving into Cedar Crest while assembling a government -- just what the new administration's policy issues are going to be.

Fresh start -- except for those remaining six months of the fiscal year before July 1. And those six months probably give a new governor fairly important "breathing room" while becoming acclimated to running things.

But, say that two-year budget is a "rolling budget." That means every year, the Legislature and governor add another year, which means the currently planned spending doesn't just end at the end of Brownback's first term as governor, but continues into the first year of his second term -- or the first year of a new governor if Brownback isn't re-elected.

That leaves an extra year of the footprint of the current governor that slops into what might be the first year of a new governor's term. If Brownback is re-elected, it means five years from now at the end of his second term when he can't seek re-election, whoever becomes governor is pretty well locked into the spending plan for the first year of a new term.

Anyone wondering whether a governor, in his last term, might want to make sure the incoming governor doesn't mess up some grand plan of the outgoing governor?

Now, maybe Kansas has its first two-year budget. But it will be worthwhile next January, at the State of the State address, to find out whether the budget rolls ... or not.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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