The Kansas Legislature is back in session. The full House and Senate returned to work in Topeka on Wednesday.
Legislators have plenty of unfinished business, including balancing the next state budget. They must close a $422 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Salina Representative J.R. Claeys sat down with KSAL News in Topeka on Wednesday just before business resumed. He says that it won’t be easy to balance the budget, and it might not happen in a timely manner.
“It is going to be very difficult to find 63 people in the house of representatives who are willing to raise taxes to the level that it might take to solve this issue,” Claeys said. “It’s also going to be difficult to find 63 individuals who are going to be willing to make the difficult decision to cut specific programs,” he added.
Claeys anticipates some “long and difficult nights” where they will be bumping up against the midnight deadline to get things done.
Claeys said that the big issue with Salina is that “we are on an island, we have to drive a heck of a distance to avoid some of these taxes that are being proposed.” He said that “it’s going to be difficult to convince me that we need to have tax increases on the things that you and I buy most in Salina.” Especially when those increases are championed by someone who lives in an area where they literally drive across the street to avoid paying them, Claeys added.
Wednesday was the 73rd day of their annual session, out of 90 scheduled. The 90th day would be May 16.
Lawmakers have met more than 90 days in previous years, and their longest annual session was in 2002, at 107 days. Last year’s session lasted only 79.