Budget Concerns Lead Legislative Update
Jeff Garretson - February 21, 2015 6:36 pm
From left: Senator Tom Arpke, and Representatives Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys at Saturday's update
A crowd of about 100 people joined area legislators on Saturday morning at the Salina Chamber for the first of three updates on state issues being discussed in Topeka.
Senator Tom Arpke, and Representatives Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys briefed everyone on their work in committees, then shifted for a Q & A session. Questions from the gallery ranged from concern about the state budget, funding for KDOT, raising taxes and a proposed bill that could eliminate common core standards in Kansas public schools.
With a backdrop of a projected $648 million shortfall in next year’s budget, lawmakers have been tasked with finding a way to run a leaner state.
Both Representatives Steven Johnson and Diana Dierks said they were concerned when they looked at early projections on the budget estimates, “We knew there would be shortfalls but not this magnitude,” she said. Johnson added that his colleagues are ready to tackle the job. “The reality is, we have to figure out how to move forward.”
Lawmakers will be busy during the final week of February as proposals live or die in committees before turnaround day on Friday.
One of those proposals making headlines would eliminate Common Core standards, a move that USD 305 Superintendent Bill Hall warned would ‘set his district back by 5 years.’
At its roots, the Common Core program was developed to establish similar educational standards across the states to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college or the workforce.
Representative J.R. Claeys said he thinks the measure is ill timed. “If we were to scrap Common Core then what is the end result of that?” he said. “I think it would be in our best interest for those folks who don’t like it at this stage, because we’re already developing the next set of standards. To put their efforts into the new standards that’s going to be coming out here in a few years—that’s a better use of our time and energy.”
Both Dierks and Johnson said they would not support cutting Common Core in Kansas, while State Senator Tom Arpke said, “I’m not satisfied on making a yes or no without further discussion.” Arpke added it is a difficult subject that he has been looking into for about three years.
H2O and Hemp
Representative Steven Johnson also briefed the group on one of his committees that is looking at conserving water in Kansas. That work he says has led to looking at growing Hemp in Kansas.
Better Pay for KHP
Representative J.R. Claeys added his review on funding for KDOT projects plus he underscored the need to find a way to find better pay and promotions for Kansas Highway Patrol Troopers. According to Claeys the agency is understaffed and currently 100 Troopers short.
Legislators will be back in Salina for their second update on Saturday, March 21 while the third and final update is scheduled for May 23rd at the Chamber.