Lawmaker wrap-up session could take weeks

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The wrap-up session in Topeka for lawmakers can take a few days. It’s a time to clean up last-minute bills and finish the session.

But this year, after taking a break, lawmakers may be in Topeka for weeks.

There remains a big money problem. The state needs to find nearly $900 million to fix the budget through fiscal 2019.

“There’s very much a focus that we are going to continue working straight through,” says Molly Baumgardner, a Republican Senate member from Louisburg. “Obviously, legislators were working on budget and taxes and funding formulas over the break. And, so, there is very much an attitude that we will get these things taken care of, but it’s going to take some time.”

Baumgardner points out lawmakers have to find a way to budget for schools, after the high court in Kansas recently found  K-12 funding is not adequate.

“A focus with the legislature is that they want to have the best plan that we can vote on. And that once it is voted on there is the intention and as well, the communication with the governor’s office, saying, this is what is coming to you.”

Baumgardner says Governor Brownback will likely veto any tax plan in conjunction with a school finance plan that does away with the 2012 tax breaks. Governor Brownback has indicated he does not want the tax breaks to go away.

But, many lawmakers point out, the tax breaks may well go away.

But, there remains a key group of lawmakers that is intent on finding ways to cut the budget.

“Four or so lawmakers are trying to dictate policy right now,” says Democrat House minority leader, Jim Ward of Wichita. “And they’re going to mess around to try to stick a tax plan into a bill without a debate and that gives me a red flag that the tax bill is no good.”

Ward says neither the House nor Senate will pass anything without debate.

“We have to have a public debate. And we really should do schools firsts,” says Ward. “Schools are 50 percent of the budget. They drive what we need to do in terms of revenue if we are going to satisfy our (school) districts in regards to the (Kansas Supreme) court decision. Schools first. And then let’s put together the revenue to fund them.”

Lawmakers are considering several bills still in play. But, top of the list includes a plan on how to finance schools and a budget.

“You know it is very important to us that funding gets to those (K-12 school) kids that are academically challenge,” says Baumgardner. “And that we have a steady flow of revenue so when we come up with that new formula, we are not going to come up short as far as funding for it in the budget. There is very much an atmosphere that we are going to get our work done.”

Committee members meet Wednesday morning to hammer out what comes next.


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