Hello from Topeka. Here is an update from this week.
Senate Panel Proposes Education Cuts
A Republican Senate Panel put forth a bill this week, proposing further cuts to mostly education. The legislation laid out a 5% cut to K-12 Education and a 3% cut to Higher Education Budget, which would add up to over $150 million in cuts to Kansas schools by June. These short term unanticipated cuts the Senate Republicans have put forth would cost Leavenworth schools $900k in the next 4 months and Ft Leavenworth schools about half of that.
Meanwhile a bipartisan revenue bill passed out of the house tax committee today that would roll back the LLC exemptions and reinstate a tax bracket on the most wealthy that was taken out a few years ago. This plan has support and will benefit our hard working men and women in Leavenworth. Meanwhile the House Appropriations committee is looking for further efficiencies to get us through the short term budget problem that last year's legislature put us in.
State's Credit Rating
On Wednesday, Standard & Poor downgraded the Kansas credit rating again due to the financial problems of the state. We are now in a negative rating. This makes any bond issues in the state more expensive and is an objective evaluation of the policies over the past few years. This is like having your credit rating constantly falling because you don't pay your bills.
Medicaid Expansion Hearings
The House Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony for three days this week on Medicaid expansion. Currently, the state uses a privatized program called KanCare, which a recent investigation found to be noncompliant with federal regulations because of how it leaves intended recipients at risk and other issues. The current KanCare program as designed by the Governor and past Legislature turns down millions of federal dollars every year. Expansion has broad support, even with looming federal changes because it will enhance Kansas share of any block grant system that has been discussed at the federal level.
Statewide American Legion and VFW officers met with legislators this week to communicate priorities with regard to military and veterans. There is a bill that has been introduced to give tax free status back to these organizations which I'm pushing for.
I had further discussions with the Secretary of Corrections this week regarding the prospect of a modern prison replacing Lansing's very old medium and maximum security prison facilities. There are roughly 70 unfilled positions at the prison, with a whopping 37% turnover for the last year in terms of prison guard staff. There is a lot of discussion about the option to have private companies build it with a 20 year payback mechanism, while the prison would still be run by the state. The whole prospect is still in its early stages as they are about to solicit requests for proposals from construction companies. There will be more discussion on this over the upcoming months.
Black History Month
February marks the beginning of a month-long celebration of African-American achievements. The House of Representatives will be honoring the rich history of African-Americans in the United States throughout the month.
It continues to be a special honor to serve as your state representative and look forward to any input on the various issues facing state government.
Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 559-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7522 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the action is streaming and you can follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org
Rep. Jeff Pittman