On Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback presented his annual State of the State Address in the Kansas House of Representatives Chamber to a joint session of the House and Senate. Brownback outlined his agenda for some of the items he would like the state Legislature to enact for the 2016 legislative session. I do want to preface these are the items the governor addressed during his speech Tuesday evening; however, we have yet to see whether any of these specific items will be drafted into legislative bill form.
Brownback began his speech by addressing the accomplishments of his administration for the past five years. Those being: More than 388,000 low income Kansans now pay 0 percent income taxes; KPERS is out of bankruptcy; more than half of the people on welfare are now off and out of poverty; technical education has tripled; state agencies have been consolidating; wasteful programs have been eliminated; and unemployment is down.
The main items Brownback focused on were on:
Education Brownback called on the Legislature to design a new funding system that benefits instruction and provides bonuses for exceptional teachers.
Kansas National Guard The governors new budget funds the arming and training of additional personnel.
Refugees The governor said he will act and expand his executive order blocking state agencies from resettling any refugees who present a safety and security risk.
Gitmo He said he stands ready to thwart every action President Barack Obama takes to transfer terrorists to Kansas.
Property tax lid The governor announced his support for strengthening the property tax lid by closing existing loopholes.
Planned Parenthood Brownback directed not a single dollar of taxpayer money go to Planned Parenthood through our Medicaid program.
The morning following the State of the State speech, members from the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee had a joint committee meeting to review the governors submitted budget proposal.
Budget Director Shawn Sullivan addressed the main components of the proposal and adjustments to the 2016 and 2017 budgets, both in revenue streams and expenditures that would provide for an ending balance for the 2016 fiscal year of $35.1 million dollars and an ending balance for fiscal year 2017 of $87.9 million. For both years, we will need to take legislative action in the form of a rescission bill for fiscal year 2016 and a supplemental bill for fiscal year 2017. For more information on the budget, visit budget.ks.gov.
Last year, the Legislature appropriated up to $3 million specifically for the purpose of contracting an auditing firm to evaluate the agencies and departments of the state of Kansas with the intent to identify monetary efficiencies. Last summer, the firm of Alvarez & Marsal won the bid at the price of $2.6 million and quickly began evaluating the state books. On Tuesday, during our committee meeting, auditors from Alvarez & Marsal presented their 105 recommendations, which would provide $2.04 billion in benefits to the state during the next year. Some of the recommendations addressed:
Procurement, which is the purchase of goods and services by agencies and other state-funded entities, could possibly save the state more than $100 million in the five-year period.
By changing the way the state bids out, purchases and administers its insurance policies, savings of more than $170 million could be generated in a five-year period.
Several changes were recommended for the Department of Corrections that could provide $40 million in benefits in the next five years.
Proposals for the Department of Children and Families could generate a savings of $19 million in the next five years, which would include measures to improve child support collections, an area where Kansas lags behind other states. The merger of certain field offices also was recommended.
The Department of Transportation could produce savings or additional revenue totaling $80 million through consolidation, sponsorships and the selling of equipment.
The Department of Revenue could generate $381 million, without raising taxes, namely by filling 68 positions within the department.
Allowing all school districts to participate in the state health insurance and benefits plan would save taxpayers $360 million in five years.
Some of the recommendations can be handled administratively, while others will require legislative action. These are just a few of the suggestions presented by Alvarez & Marsal. They still are conducting a review of the states agencies and departments and will present their final analysis in February 2016.
Even though it is only the first week of the 2016 session, we having been moving at a quick pace. Already this week, we have voted on two House bills.
One of those bills is House Substitute for House Bill 2151. This bill would amend the current law concerning grand juries summoned by petition, which is a practice commonly referred to as a citizens grand jury. The bill would allow the person who filed the petition and that persons attorney to witness the instructions given to the grand jury, after it is summoned, however not before deliberations. There is no fiscal note with its passage.
This bill was debated and passed on the House floor Thursday.
Rep. Troy L. Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, represents District 109 in the Kansas House.