Finch: Smoke and mirrors accounting does not disguise Kansas’ dysfunction

By State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties

Greetings from a very busy Kansas Statehouse. This week saw the passage of different budgets in the House and Senate and the announcement of the first part of the Gannon school finance case. In addition to these large newsmakers, committees continued to meet and work numerous bills on many different issues.

The House debated its version of the budget on Wednesday in a five-and-a-half-hour session that saw 15 different amendments to the base bill. While I supported some of these amendments – such as a prohibition against using state funds to try to privatize the Osawatomie State Hospital – I opposed the final budget.

This budget, which covers the remainder of this fiscal year and the next year, continues the dysfunctional policy of spending more money than Kansas brings in. It continues fee sweeps, transfers and borrowing from the future to meet current obligations. This year’s budget added a new wrinkle which allowed for short term borrowing from KPERS to make sure the state had enough money in the bank to close out this fiscal year. That sort of borrowing, whether from KDOT or our public retirement system is shortsighted and anything but conservative.

Even with that, the state’s ending cash balance on June 30, 2016, is projected to be $6,000,000. That’s about $400,000,000 less than we are statutorily required to have. And, remember that ending balance assumes we meet revenue estimates every month from here to there. I would draw your attention to last month, January, when Kansas was nearly $7,000,000 short on its projected revenues for just one month, we still have five months until the end of the fiscal year.

Our state government is passing budgets with spending levels hundreds of millions of dollars above the revenues it receives. That is the definition of deficit spending and it’s wrong. I will continue to stand for putting our fiscal house in order and will continue to oppose budgets that use smoke and mirrors accounting tricks to disguise the dysfunction in our taxing and spending policies.

The other big news of the week was the announcement of the equity portion of the Gannon case. The high court found that the block grant funding method that Kansas switched to last year did not account for disparities between rich and poor districts. It has long been the law that a student in Ottawa or Lyndon should have access to a similar education as a child in Olathe or Lawrence. In other words, every Kansas school child matters and should not suffer a lesser education simply because of where he or she is born or raised.

It is important to note that the court’s ruling did not set a dollar figure that the Legislature must spend on education, it simply said the Legislature must do what it is constitutionally required to do – which is to determine a funding formula by which it will equitably fund Kansas schools. The ruling determined that the block grant system put in place by the Legislature last year did not properly allow for equity between districts and had to be fixed by June 30. I believe this can be done quickly and effectively if the will exists among legislative leadership. I stand ready to roll up my sleeves and help work on ways that can be done.

I welcome your emails or calls on any issue that is important to you at [email protected] or 785-296-7655. I thank you for the opportunity to represent you and be your voice in Topeka.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas