OK, it’s starting to get interesting now, this $345 million budget shortfall for the nearly half-over Kansas Fiscal Year 2017.
So far, it’s the governor reminding the Legislature and anyone else who will listen that assembling and maintaining the budget is the job of the Kansas Legislature.
But Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is telling the governor that he really ought to use his executive power to make budget cuts now, not leave the job to the incoming new Legislature.
Wagle is expected to be re-elected Senate President by the GOP caucus of the upper chamber on Dec. 5. Current House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, didn’t seek re-election to the House.
So, when the session starts Jan. 9 we have a governor with two years left on his term saying he’ll come up with something after Jan. 9 and the presumptive leader of the Senate for the next four years saying fix it now.
Sound like a happy little discourse?
And while there isn’t a designated House Speaker yet, in the minutes after the House GOP Caucus selects its leader Dec. 5, don’t look for the new Speaker to side with Brownback.
Now, all of this makes for an interesting little political scrap, except that whenever and whatever cuts are made by the governor, or the Legislature if he hangs back and just makes a “suggestion,” we still live here.
That means that the cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year are going to have to be sharp, and some of us Kansans are going to feel them and some of us aren’t.
Practically, if you receive little or nothing from the state in the way of services — say, Medicaid (KanCare) or welfare or special assistance for a child or grandchild in public schools, or maybe even just making sure that the guy fishing in the next boat over is using a hook and not a net, you’ve got little to lose.
Just sit back and watch what happens to those other folks.
But if you are depending on the state for welfare, for school and health care for your children or grandchildren, or your neighbors, or even penciling out just how you’re going to pay tuition at a state university … well, this isn’t just something to watch like Dancing with the Stars.
The budget is already tight; there is a Kansas Supreme Court decision on its way that might require the state to spend more money on public education.
The roads? Well, that’s been a major source of money for the rest of state government and that well is about dry.
So, while you’re reading about the budget shortfall — and wondering whether there are income or property or sales tax increases in your future—remember that it’s going to be a just-elected or re-elected Legislature that is likely going to have to do the heavy lifting.
A majority or at least a plurality of you voted for those folks who are going to be inconveniencing you.
The scuffle is over whether the governor is going to take direct action to solve things or whether he’s going to make suggestions and watch the Legislature just like the rest of us.
So get ready, and remember that much of what we know about state government and its services and protections for us are going to change dramatically in the next couple months.
And … wonder just what those candidates were thinking last spring, when they decided that making law and managing the state is really what they wanted to do…