Area legislators were back in Salina on Saturday with an update from Topeka on the 2014 session.
Senator Tom Arpke and State Representatives Steven Johnson and Diana Dierks were on hand for the question and answer session at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. Representative J.R. Claeys was not present due to a prior commitment.
Questions from the gallery of about 60 people ranged from school finance, expanding Medicaid around the state, local elections to a proposed measure that could repeal the Renewable Portfolio Standards that were put in place by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Lawmakers are currently wrestling with a July 1st deadline to comply with a recent state Supreme Court ruling to fund school districts. The task is finding an additional $129 in the budget.
Representative Steven Johnson said making some cuts could provide a few answers, “It’s difficult to go from a concept to the governor’s desk,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.”
Senator Tom Arpke tells KSAL News he’s confident they’ll meet the deadline, “The toughest thing for us to look at is where we can include the dollars they’ve given us permission to use toward the base state aid,” he said.
“I want to do that as efficiently as possible and put as few new dollars into it, because I think we have the resources available right now to make sure that we are educating our young men and women to be good productive workers here in the state.”
Concerning the issue of expanding Medicaid, both Rep. Johnson and Rep. Dierks support the idea but are still questioning how it would be funded by the federal government. Senator Arpke indicated he would not support it.
Wind energy and coal fired power plants were back in the mx as talk of a possible repeal of the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) is growing. Senator Arpke tells KSAL News he is still waiting to see movement on a promised plant that still is not built, “I really don’t have a problem with the RPS in its intent,” he said.
“However when the federal government holds us hostage to this and makes a promise that we can increase our base load with a new coal fired plant, which was always in the original plan, until we get that we should not continue with this agreement.”
Legislators will be back in Salina for their third and final update on Saturday May, 17th at the Chamber.