That first date…

Syndicated to Kansas newspapers March 13, 2017

Martin HawverMany grown-ups remember that you never knew how a first date was going to turn out until you were on the doorstep and got kissed…or not.
Well, and you gotta hate the comparison, but the Kansas Legislature is a little like that first date every year. We’ll not know how it worked out until the last day, and we’re just a dab over halfway done, roughly 50 of the 100 days that legislative leadership decided last year that it would take them to complete their work this year.
That 100-day session, up from the traditional 90 days, is supposed to cover everything: Getting this fiscal year’s budget balanced, figuring out the budgets for the next two fiscal years and coming up with a tax plan to pay for it. Oh, and probably dusting off an old school finance formula and paying for it.
For all the rancor over delays and inaction and such, whether Gov. Sam Brownback is really working with the Legislature and whether the Senate is holding out for a rescission bill (that’s balancing the budget for the remaining four months of the fiscal year) with cuts, and whatever, just because things haven’t been done yet doesn’t mean they won’t get done.
Key is, of course, balancing this year’s budget. The governor and the House have a plan that the Senate didn’t like, and so things are shortstopped for the time being. And, that rescission business is slowing down everything else, but practically there’s plenty of time left.
Surprising so far is that the House has passed some fairly heavy weight bills to the Senate and the Senate hasn’t acted on any of them, and earth-shaking or not, the House also has sent the Senate more little bills than the Senate has sent the House.
There’s expanding the state’s Medicaid (KanCare) program, there’s tenure for schoolteachers, but nothing yet on concealed-carry of guns on college campuses and in hospitals. Oh, and nothing’s known yet about just what tack lawmakers will take on that Kansas Supreme Court decision to spend more money on schools…
But, the clock hasn’t run out yet, and there’s still time, and it may be getting warmer this spring, so it will be more comfortable for those folks who want to visit the Statehouse and see debates and such.
Is there a time-crunch crisis? Is the Legislature working too slowly? Are things not getting done, or just not getting done yet? The topic is good for all politicians: Those who are angry that things aren’t moving faster and those who say they want to think through some important legislation before the bills are sent to the printer to be put in the statute books.
Politically, the longer it takes the Legislature, mostly the Senate, to adopt a rescission bill to get the state through the final months of this fiscal year probably works to the advantage of folks who don’t want to see end-of-year cuts to agency budgets and programs. The reason is simple. The less time to achieve in-house operational economies, the more likely that lawmakers will run out of time to make such budget cuts.
That means that the governor, who is proposing payday-loan style borrowing from state idle funds, will probably win this one because the clock will run out.
If you don’t want cuts in spending, just some rather unseemly borrowing, well, you’re in no hurry. With the recent spate of revenues topping predictions, even that internal borrowing might be less than was predicted back in January.
There’s still plenty of time left before we find out what happens on the doorstep at the end of this date…

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