Hilderbrand Newsletter: Week one

On Tuesday, Governor Brownback gave his eighth and final State of the State address. The governor spoke of his many dreams for Kansas and highlighted accomplishments within the state such as 17,000 fewer abortions in the past six-years and a decreasing childhood poverty rate. The one point that received the strongest response was his proposal for Kansas to spend an additional $600 million on school funding over the next five years.

Highlights from Tuesday’s State of the State address:

School Funding

In October, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the Legislature’s 2017 school funding plan unconstitutional and gave them a deadline of April 30th to fix it. This has been said to be the most important issue that the legislature will face this year. During Tuesday night’s address, Governor Brownback unveiled his intention to comply with the court’s decision.

* The governor’s budget recommendation includes an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. He explained that his proposal does not include a tax increase.

* The governor also suggested the legislature put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot this year addressing our school finance system although he gave no direction on specific language.

Education

Governor Brownback’s recommendations on education:

* To reach a 95 percent statewide graduation rate

* For a minimum of 75 percent of Kansas students to continue their education after graduation through college, post-secondary certification, or joining the military

* Accelerate the movement of Kansas schools to the Kansans Can model for school redesign that was launched by the Kansas Department of Education.

Governor Brownback gave five strategic objectives for K-12 education. He hopes for these objectives to be reached within the next five years. They are the following:

1. Higher average teacher pay than surrounding states

2. Increase the number of school counselors and school psychologists in Kansas schools by 150 positions each year

3. Have at least 50 schools participating in the Kansans Can school redesign project

4. Have every Kansas high school offer at least 15 credit hours of dual credit coursework to every high school student, at no additional cost to parents – through a partnership between high schools and the state’s institutions of higher learning

5. Offer every Kansas high school student, at no additional cost to parents, the choice of taking either the ACT college entrance exam or the Work Keys assessment

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PROPOSAL

During the 2017 session, the legislature passed a two-year budget that makes appropriations for FY 2018 and FY 2019. The plan spends $15.6 billion including roughly $6.4 billion from the State General Fund in FY 18 and $15.8 billion including roughly $6.3 billion from the State General Fund in FY 19.

On Nov. 2, 2017, the Consensus Revenue Group revised estimates showing an increase by a combined $229.5 million for FY 18 and FY 19. The Governor released a revised budget proposal to the Legislature on Wednesday. The proposal included increased spending in several areas including the following:

Department for Children and Families

Recently, DCF has been affected by a wide range of problems including children that have been taken into state custody involuntarily, children having to sleep in social workers' offices because of a shortage of emergency-placement homes, as well as children in foster care that have been reported missing. The proposal adds a $16.5 million funding increase over two-years to strengthen child welfare services at DCF. The $16.5 million presented would be focused on several key areas including:

* 20 additional child welfare staff

* Investigative staff to help track down missing children

* Fingerprinting and background checks for foster care providers

* Improvements to the center where people can report suspected abuse and neglect

* Funding for family-preservation programs that are designed to prevent at-risk children from being taken into foster care

The $16.5 million enhancement would come from a mixture of funding including the state general fund and TANF dollars. This is one of the largest single increase in child welfare funding in Kansas history.

Kansas K-12 Education Finance

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state’s latest attempt isn’t sufficient to meet the constitutional duty of providing a suitable education to K-12. To address the issue, the governor presented an increase in school finance in hopes of meeting the court mandate. The proposals laid out a $600 million increase in school funding over the next five years.

FY 19 would see an increase to K-12 funding by a total of $200.8 million counting roughly $88 million passed in 2017 in SB 19 and roughly $107 million used to increase base aid to $4,281. Following FY 19 education finance would see an increase of $100 million over the next four years.

Advanced Manufacturing & Aviation:

The governor proposed additional funding to the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). He also proposed the restoration of funds to the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) to assist the aviation industry in Wichita. This is in response to aviation companies expressing difficulty in recruiting skilled workers.

The governor also proposed an additional $1 million to an apprenticeship program which helps students seeking certificates from trade schools and community colleges such as a CNA or mechanical license.

 NIAR - $5 million additional dollars to bring to a total of $10 million

 NCAT – Restoration of $1.7 million dollars to bring to a total of $5 million

 Apprenticeships - $1 million

The governor’s proposal would leave the government with a $266 million ending balance for FY 18. In the following fiscal year, the proposal would again boost state spending by $290 million leaving FY 19 with an ending balance at $150 million. The ending balances for this year and next year are only capable by further delaying state payments to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and drawing from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

LANSING PRISON

The State Finance Council met on Thursday for an informational meeting to discuss the plan to rebuild the state’s oldest and largest prison, Lansing Correctional Facility. Legislators remain concerned about the proposed $362 million rebuild that is backed by Governor Brownback. Many legislators are concerned with the project’s cost and CoreCivic, the private prison operator that would build the new Lansing facility.

The plan as introduced would be a 20-year, $362 million contract that would finance, design, construct, and maintain a new state prison in Lansing. Under the plan developed by KDOC and CoreCivic, the new facility would have 1,920 maximum and minimum-security beds and 512 medium security beds. Technology and design upgrades would allow the KDOC to reduce staffing from 682 to 371. First-year payment by the state would be $14.9 million and would rise 1.9 percent yearly during the contracted 20-years. The Finance Council is expected to take a vote on the issue on Thursday, Jan. 18.

Thank you for all your calls, emails, and letters regarding your thoughts and concerns about happenings in Kansas. Constituent correspondence helps inform my decision making process and is taken into great consideration when I cast my vote in the Kansas Senate. I hope you’ll continue to engage with me on the issues that matter most to you, your family, and our community. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, I encourage you to follow along with the #ksleg hashtag for realtime updates on legislative happenings in Topeka. Please know that I am fully committed to addressing the current issues in our state, and I am proud to be your voice in the Kansas Senate.