Local Legislators Express Frustrations

The four Salina area lawmakers were back home Saturday to provide a warp-up on the 2016 Legislative Session in Topeka.

A crowd of about 50 people participated in a question and answer session Saturday with Senator Tom Arpke and  State Representatives, Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys.

Much of the conversation centered on money and education.

While the session is over, legislators could possibly be called back to Topeka, pending a much anticipated Kansas Supreme Court decision on education funding.

Dierks said that there is the possibility that the June 1st sine die adjournment session could turn into a work session. Legislators could possibly be called back work on education funding issues, or could possibly try to over-ride some recent vetoes.

All of the legislators expressed frustration with the budget that passed. It did not roll back tax cuts to small businesses and LLCs that many have pointed to as being a problem. Instead, it gave Governor Sam Brownback the power to make cuts.

Johnson was the only local legislator to champion rolling back the tax cuts. “You put more in, or you take less out,” he summarized. He said that rather than stimulating job creation, the business tax cuts instead are driving tax avoidance. Arpke pointed out that revenues are actually up, comparing April of 2016 to April of 2015. But he noted that they are not up enough to keep up with spending.

Claeys expressed dismay with some of the cuts enacted by Governor Brownback. He said that he “needed to choose his words wisely,” but that he was “disappointed with the route the governor went.” Claeys said that he was on a committee that came up with $20 million in savings, none of which the governor chose to use.

Claeys said that the Medicaid cuts enacted by Brownback will cost Salina Regional Health Center $1.4 million. Johnson said that he fears that the Medicaid cuts will focre some local service providers to quit.

On the topic of education funding, Claeys said that the impending decision by  the supreme court should provide more direction. Arpke said that part of the problem is with the current formula is that previous legislators never allowed it to sunset. Instead, it is a formula that has been constantly changed and tweaked. And he talked about consolidation. He said that district size is one recommendation that has been ignored. The recommendation is that no district should be less that 10,000 students.

As the session concluded, each legislator indicated that they plan to run for re-election.