Snag leaves budget in limbo

Rep., 70th District

Normally the legislature passes a mega-budget, an expansive budget that reconciles current year fiscal matters and puts together a framework for the next fiscal year.

Well, the House of Representatives passed one, and so did the Senate. During negotiations to reconcile 200-plus differences, three senators and three representatives met in conference and came to agreement; and we were to have voted to approve the agreement on Friday about 3 p.m. just before taking our April break. (The governor gets about 20 days to consider signing or vetoing the bills we’ve passed out so far.)

However, we were told the House conferees would not sign the conference report after discovering the consequences of an item they had agreed to pertaining to school funding.

The conferees had all agreed to fund schools about $29 million to finish up the school year and they agreed to hammer out later “whose” money to use for the payment — from the state general fund (we have the money there that could be used without risking any deficit spending), to “borrow” from the transportation department’s budget for road work, or to find some other source not yet identified. The result: we now have no budget bill reconciling the 2012 spending.

This may not impact schools as much as other branches and agencies — those short of funding to finish the fiscal year. For one, it places our courts, once again, in the precarious position of whether to furlough workers. You might remember from 2009 the judicial branch’s budget is mostly personnel costs, and when there is any shortage, there’s no virtually no place for the judiciary to cut, except workers’ time.

The good news is fewer people are filing lawsuits. The bad news is filing fees are way down, and it’s tough to run the legal system without generating the fees, considering the legislature is under-funding the court system through tax dollars and is relying on fees. To avoid shutting down the courts for a week in June, we’re likely to see a day here and there with their doors shut all across Kansas to make up the shortfall. While closed, work will pile up and we who use the courts will see delays.

The judiciary’s budget fix that would have avoided furloughs was also contained in that mega-budget we didn’t pass on Friday.

HB 2789 proposed to create an oversight committee for KanCare, the managed care system designed by Gov. Sam Brownback to both replace Medicaid and to re-design management for people who are either developmentally disabled (DD) or physically disabled (PD). Many folks seem to understand the desire to streamline management of people with health issues, but a whole host of folks object to putting the DD people in that system, since their care is not day-to-day health related, but is day-to-day routine management.

Parents tell us they have worked for years to get the care and routine environment for their children (some now grown) that works for their child, and they object to the disruption of what they believe worked well. An amendment was proposed to remove the DD community from KanCare, but before we voted on it, the bill was sent back to committee.

I have heard from a handful of folks with family members caught up in this tiff and so far, none of them want their kid’s routine messed with. They have all said that routine is essential for the well-being of their children, and that upheaval instead of routine causes trauma for the whole family and whole system, not only their DD child.

If you have thoughts in this arena, please let me know because this is likely to come up again. The hope is to save money; the risk is messing up a system of care for the DD community that seems to be working for them.

You may email me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or call me at (620) 382-2133. We are now on break until April 25 while the governor considers bills we’ve passed, so don’t use my Topeka contact information until then.

I will be at legislative question-and-answer sessions at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Cassoday Senior Center and 11 a.m. Saturday at Prairie PastTimes, 220½ Broadway, Cottonwood Falls.

 

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