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SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Touch-ups and tweaks for year No. 2

Published on -10/1/2013, 10:42 AM

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Well, it was just Dec. 10, 2012, when Gov. Sam Brownback said out loud in public for the first time that he would propose a two-year budget for the state of Kansas?

It was a new wrinkle for a relatively new governor, halfway into his term, and nobody was very sure how it would turn out.

So most state agencies used to looking into the future one fiscal year at a time just asked for the same amount of money in fiscal year 2015 (which starts July 1) that they did for fiscal year 2014 (which began July 1 of this year).

Oh, they added a dab more for their pension payments which were already scheduled, but it was about static otherwise.

Most agencies, of course, were used to fighting out the budget battle one year at a time, and rarely started thinking about the following year until the current budget was approved by lawmakers and the governor.

That two-year clock started July 1, 2013, and now, well at least three major agencies see trouble if the second-year budget touch-up during the 2014 legislative session doesn't go their way.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss already has talked about the possibility that the courts (that's the employees, not judges, of course) might have to close down for as many as seven weeks next year if the judicial branch doesn't get at least $8.5 million more from the Legislature for fiscal year 2015.

And Brownback, recall, line-item vetoed every dime of the fiscal year 2015 budget for the Department of Corrections because he deemed the funding level inadequate. The concept? Zero-out funding for fiscal year 2015, and lawmakers will have to pay attention or a lot of criminals get out of jail free.

And, the Kansas Regents, on behalf of higher/technical education, want another $30 million at least, just to keep things going.

This touch-up in the second year of a two-year budget cycle? It just might be interesting.

Do agencies lobby to keep what they got? Do they think up another program or two for a few hundred thousand dollars just to show that the agency is doing vital work for the state? Or, do they just stay out of the Statehouse?

Yes, already there is halltalk about just what's going to happen, how to get the governor to suggest in his not-quite-a-budget -- more a budget touch-up -- address to lawmakers in January that agencies get a few more bucks for the upcoming fiscal year.

Oh, and don't forget that with only a handful of agencies likely to be in line for more money. There is more time for idle lawmakers to see whether those out-of-the-spotlight agencies actually need what was approved for them last year.

This generally slow time in the Statehouse before the session starts? Well, it's not slow out in the agencies, where they're figuring what strategy will work best for them.

We'll find out in January.

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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