Kansas budget game: Fourth and long in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kansas – Day nine of overtime in Topeka. No deal on finding $406 million to balance the budget.

But if this lawmaking session were a football game, they’d at least be moving the ball a little.

“Yes, you could say we moved the ball today. Just not much,” says Republican Senator from Wichita, Michael O’Donnell.

But other lawmakers, still, say almost nothing was done. Some Democrats say the budget moved to a committee, led by Republicans, and it didn’t get to the House floor for debate.

Democrat Representative Jim Ward of Wichita says he wants a say in the plays that are called this late in the game.

“We’re not close to a deal, but we are moving the football. We should have seen some debate on this thing,” says Ward. “What we saw today, today you saw legislative cowardice.”

Other lawmakers point out, it feels like the end of the game. They just have no idea who will make the winning score, to finish the game.

“I wanted it on the floor with the full debate regardless how long it takes to get the whole portfolio,” says Republican Representative John Doll of Garden City. “This process is frustrating.”

Some say, with a full weekend ahead, they will be missing family outings and planned vacations to be in Topeka.

Those quarterbacking this game include Senate President Susan Wagle and Ray Merrick, Speaker of the House. The leaders told the players in the game to stick around in overtime — all weekend.

“Yes, we will be here all weekend to get something done,” says Merrick. “And that’s a lot of people to get going in the same direction. We’re going to be here over the weekend until we get something done.”

So the game continues. But, what play gets called, depends on the conference.

Not a football conference, though some say it feels like a full-contact sport complete with pads and helmets.

This conference is between the Kansas House and Senate.

The conference will either be cutting some tax breaks to raise revenue, or they could make the call to raise your taxes.

Some of the coaches in this contest don’t like their options this late in the game.

“Republican Governor. Republican Senate and House,” says Republican Senate President Susan Wagle. “It’s very difficult for conservative leaders to vote for a tax increase. ”

But, at the end of the game, that may be the play that is called, they admit.

The game continues, in overtime, all weekend.


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