When state lawmakers return to Topeka for the wrap-up or veto session, it usually is just to tidy up any leftover work.
This year, the reverse is in play. The list of significant bills that have passed the Legislature and signed by the governor is rather short. What remains is daunting, even with recent upticks in revenue forecasts.
First off is the supplemental budget bill -- for the current year. Despite there being only two more months in the fiscal year, legislators have not addressed the budget shortfalls yet. Actually there was an agreed-upon plan ready to go before the recent spring break. But a few House members were able to derail the House-Senate conference committee deal, which led to furloughs throughout the court system and has more than a few other state offices scrambling to get their work done.
Still awaiting agreement is the $14 billion state budget for next year.
Affecting this particular task are a variety of other bills that will alter the budget numbers dramatically. Public schools do not know how much per-pupil funding will be as elected leaders debate new methods to make "fair and equitable" cost even less down the road. The current school finance formula still has unresolved lawsuits; the reforms under consideration likely will attract even more.
Competing tax reforms are on the table. Both chambers have plans to cut personal and corporate income tax rates, but the methods used to achieve the decreases conflict with each other. The negative impact on future budget years will be dependent on how many accompanying state services are cut or eliminated in order to do so.
The proposed overhauls of the state employee pension system and the state's Medicaid system await final approval. With the U.S. Department of Justice already investigating why medical services are not being provided in a timely manner for those with developmental and physical disabilities, social service spending might be increasing sooner than expected.
And then there's the little matter of redistricting. The U.S. Constitution demands this process take place this year and even with lopsided Republican majorities in both houses, legislators aren't even close to compromise regarding new political boundaries for districts.
With so much heavy lifting to accomplish in a very short timeframe, our optimism is dwindling that decision-making will be guided by sense and reason. Simply put, time is running out. Gov. Sam Brownback's overly ambitious Roadmap for Kansas has resulted in gridlock in the Statehouse corridors.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry