This past Wednesday, Legislative Research presented the governorís Rescission Bill for fiscal year 2016, House Bill 2530, to the House Appropriations Committee. The governorís revised fiscal year 2016 budget is a recommendation of total spending, state and federal dollars, of almost $15.6 billion, $6.4 billion from the state general fund. Governor Brownback has increased total expenditures by $238 million from the amount approved by the 2015 Legislature, however, he reduced the amount of state general fund spending by $22.7 million. The Governor is suggesting an increase of $95.3 million for the Board of Regents and institutions. Some of his other suggestions are increases of $46.8 million in human services caseloads, $28.9 million for the Department of Aging and Disability Services in funding shifts for caseloads, $27 million in the Department of Transportation for increased fees and federal dollars, $15.9 in the Department of Labor for increased unemployment benefits, and $11 million in the Department of Corrections and Institutions for Kansas Correctional Industries.
The governorís state general fund spending reductions include $17.7 million for the State Childrenís Health Insurance Program, $13.8 million in school finance adjustments, $2.9 million in unspent funds from the Extraordinary Needs Fund, and $1.4 million in assessed valuation for the Department of Education, which is partially offset by an increase of $16.6 million in human services caseloads.
The governorís Rescission Bill also stipulates that some transfer adjustments are to be made. Those adjustments to the State General Fund, totaling $27.7 million, which includes $5.6 million from the Department of Commerce, $4.7 million from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, $3.5 million from the Department of Revenue, $2.1 million from the State Highway Fund, a reduction of $5 million for the transfer to the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and elimination of $3.5 million which is a transfer to the Job Creation Program Fund. There is also an increase of $7.5 million in revenue due to additional debt collections for Fiscal Year 2016.
The Appropriations Committee will have hearings next Tuesday and Wednesday on this bill.
Kansas Lottery Legislative Post Audit
On Tuesday, the General Government Budget Committee heard a briefing by the Legislative Post Audit that was conducted for fiscal year 2015. Legislative Post Audit found that there were no deficiencies in the Kansas Lotteryís reporting and that there were no actions on noncompliance regarding the lotteryís financial statements. We continued our hearing on the disbursement of funds from the Kansas Lottery to the Kansas State General Fund. When the Kansas Lottery was created in 1987, the dispersion of funds was specifically stated in statute. The first $50 million is divided by the first $80,000 directed to the Problem Gambling and Addiction Fund, the remaining 85 percent to the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, 10 percent to the Correctional Institutions Building Fund, and the remaining 5 percent to the Juvenile Detention Fund. Any amount of over $50 million goes to the State General Fund. For fiscal year 2015, that amount was over $25 million.
Judicial Branch Funding
The 2015 Legislature passed House Bill 2005 which appropriated funding for the Judicial Branch through fiscal year 2017, although it included a provision of non-severability. The non-severability clause specified that if any of the 2014 legislation passed within Senate Substitute for HB 2338 is held invalid or unconstitutional, then all legislation in HB 2005 is deemed invalid, including the appropriated funds for the Judiciary. Following the passage of Senate Substitute for HB 2338, District Judge Larry Solomon sued in the view that one provision within the bill was unconstitutional. The provision allowed district judges in each judicial district to select a chief judge of such district court. In September of last year, the Shawnee County District Court ruled in the case Solomon v. State that the legislation passed within Senate Substitute for HB 2338 was unconstitutional. The ruling considered the provision a violation of the general administrative authority of the Supreme Court over the courts of the state granted under Article 3, Sec. 1 of the Kansas Constitution. After an appeal from the state in December 2015, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the Shawnee County District Courtís decision. The courtís ruling considered parts of the 2014 legislation unconstitutional and in conjunction with the non-severability clause passed in HB 2005, Kansas was presented with the risk of defunding the judicial branch.
Last week, the House passed HB 2449 in an effort to repeal the non-severability clause and preserve the judicial branch funding.
HB 2449 repealed the non-severability and enacts a severability clause declaring that, if any provision of HB 2005 is held invalid or unconstitutional, then the remainder of the provisions of HB 2005 shall remain in effect. With the passage of HB 2449 the House made certain the judicial branch remains funded.
The House passed HB 2449 on Jan. 21 by a vote of 119-0.
Visitors and Contact Information
This past week I had many visitors to either my office or to Topeka. On Monday, Michael Quade with Smoky Hills Public Television was in Topeka. Also that evening, I met with representatives from Midwest Energy, Rolling Hills, and Western Electric Cooperatives.
On Tuesday, the Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance had meetings in Topeka and I met with Janae Talbott, Russell County, Alicia Straub, Barton County, and Kara Jecha, Rush County.
I also met with Barbara Esfeld with the Barton County Appraisers, Sharon Wolters, Smith County Clerk, Fred Whitman, Russell County Sheriff, John Fletcher, Russell County Administrator, James Jirak, Kensington, and Ray Debey, Cawker City.
Rep. Troy L. Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, represents District 109 in the Kansas House.