Topeka, Kansas — Some lawmakers say the state of Kansas has a chronic cash problem. A new study is proposing ways to find $2 Billion over the next five years.
“Hopefully the Governor will allow us a little time to look at these efficiency studies and really get to the meat of the efficiency and not political agendas,” says Minority House leader Tom Burroughs of Kansas City. “…We’re just broke. The state is broke.”
Burroughs says he hopes the efficiency study is more than just a way to look at cutting budgets. He also says it may be time to consider doing away with tax breaks handed out in 2012 to raise more revenue.
“It’s becoming more apparent every day. People across Kansas are feeling the crunch,” says Burroughs of an economic shortfall in Kansas. “We have 25 counties in the western part of our state that have no highway patrol… We are cheating KDOT out of the dollars needed to keep our infrastructure solid and safe for the citizens of Kansas. We continue to attack and vilify public education when we know that it’s really one of the biggest economic drivers that we have in this state.”
And there is some cutting involved in the study, along with consolidation. There study calls for the consolidation of all state employees into one insurance plan, to save the state around $124 Million. But, that insurance plan would have higher deductible, costing employees more.
Some are asking how schools would be impacted. About $40 Million in savings that would come from consolidating school purchasing by taking purchasing away from local districts.
Another impact of the efficiency study is with teachers. The plan calls for putting all teachers and school employees into one insurance plan.
“I knew they were doing this study. This is probably not good news. We sit on the employee advisory committee and they are saying teachers will have more out-of-pocket expenses,” says Steve Wentz, President of United Teachers of Wichita. “We really have decent insurance for (Wichita) USD 259 and it’s why some teachers chose to stay here. And we are adamantly opposed to higher insurance costs. Teachers may leave in droves.”
Several Republicans, including Governor Sam Brownback, have said they would like to find more efficiencies in Kansas.
“I’m anxious to pour over this study and see if any of the ideas can be implemented without harming our great schools, medical services and roads,” says Senator Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita. “It’s always good to have an outside opinion regarding our finances to see if we’re spending state dollars as efficiently as we would spend our personal dollars.”
The study is not binding and lawmakers will consider it beginning this week.