Photo Courtesy of MCT Campus
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback gave his annual “State of the State” speech on Jan. 10. Among the issues he discussed, the most prominent were the Kansas government’s 2017 spending budget, education reform and Kansas’ decision not to expand Medicaid.
For the 2017 budget, Brownback stressed the importance of balancing the amount of money Kansas collects with the amount of money it spends in order to improve the Kansas economy in a few key sectors. He wants to modify some departments to make them more efficient – for example, combining the bureaucracies that license barbary and cosmetology. The goal is to gain enough revenue to provide for the funding of essential state services – like hospitals and the police department – and decrease the debt without significantly taxing Kansas citizens.
Brownback is still focusing his attention on small business, stating that his tax cuts are meant to increase private sector job growth and the number of small businesses.
“The biggest creators of jobs in Kansas and America are small businesses,” Brownback said during the State of the State speech. “Hurting them puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”
The focus on efficiencies was praised by Rep. Chuck Weber of Wichita, according to Kansas.com, but Kansas Rep. Barbara Bollier expressed concern about Brownback’s plans for the budget. She felt strongly about his reliance on what she calls “one-time monies,” meaning revenue gained from cutting the funding of specific policy. Bollier says the revenue from cutting these programs is only gained one time, not sustainably.
“I don’t have a problem [with one-time monies] maybe for one year, but we’re going to have to get money from somewhere to make up the 350 million dollar deficit, but [one-time monies] can’t be all,” Bollier said. “We have to have a structural fix to our budget.”
In this speech Brownback also emphasized the need for a new school funding system. He praised the Blue Valley school district for their innovation and academic success, and urged other school districts to follow in their footsteps and have technology play a more prominent part in the classroom. He gave no specifics as to how the new system would be funded.
“The last several plans that he has put forth, the Supreme Court has shut down because in the constitution it says that [the state government must provide adequate funding,” AP Government teacher Ron Stallard said. “[The question is] how do you define adequate, and so the court will have to figure that out.”
He also challenged Kansas colleges and universities to make it possible for students to earn a bachelor’s degree for $15,000 or less – a feat Bollier called “ludicrous,” based on the amount of money it costs to educate people today.
The final point Brownback focused on was Kansas’s choice not to expand Medicaid, which is a program that provides healthcare to low-income people. Bollier explained that the current structure in Kansas is a privatized system called KanCare, which provides and administers health care to the people on Medicaid through insurance companies.
Back when the Affordable Care Act was introduced, Kansas chose not to expand Medicaid despite the money that would have been provided by the federal government. Brownback justified Kansas’ choice not to expand Medicaid on the fact that the entire system is being rewritten in Washington under the new Administration and Congress; instead, KanCare 2.0 will be administered in 2017.
“[KanCare] has issues, but I can’t call it ‘ineffective’,” Bollier said. “That’s just not accurate, but it needs to be cleaned up, and we have bills coming forward to do that.”
The Kansas legislature is responsible for writing the budget and deciding how spending will be distributed in 2017. Brownback urged the legislature to have a bill outlining the 2017 budget presented to him by the end of the month. In order for the budget to go into effect, both the Kansas legislature and Brownback will have to come to an agreement.