COLUMBUS — State Rep. Doug Gatewood (D.-Columbus) told the Cherokee County Commission that state budget negotiations are “in disarray.”
He said when the Kansas House of Representatives failed to approve the Senate budget proposal the Senate then voted down the House redistricting map leaving the two largest priorities for the Kansas Legislature in jeopardy as the legislature prepares to return to session.
Gatewood complained that current budget projections show $252 million in tax revenues over and above projected budgets over the next two years, but the current budget proposals would cut funding to community mental health centers like Spring River Mental Health and Wellness as well as to organizations for the disabled such as Class LTD and Skil, in addition to cutting the base state aid per pupil to schools by $41 per student.
“So they’re balancing their books on our backs,” Cherokee County Commissioner Pat Collins said.
Gatewood said there were several people voted out of the state legislature in the last election over a one cent sales tax.
“We lost a lot of good people in the state legislature who did the right thing for the right reason and voted for the one cent sales tax,” Gatewood said, adding the tax was supposed to sunset in three years and that many of the people who were voted into office in opposition to the tax are now in favor of making the tax permanent.
“The people who pay that sales tax are not the Koch brothers,” Gatewood said. The Koch brothers are Kansas businessmen and noted libertarian activists.
Gatewood said he’s opposed to governor Sam Brownback’s so-called “march to zero,” which would elminate both the individual and corporate income taxes in Kansas.
“Right now Kansas has one of the best balanced tax structures in the country,” Gatewood said.
According to The Tax Foundation Kansas currently has the 19th highest individual income tax rates in the country and ranks 25th in business tax rates.
The commission also heard from Class LTD President Jan Bolin who came to the commission to ask for a resolution in opposition to the governor’s plan to move all Medicaid services to a managed care system which would be managed by a private company.
Bolin said that while they do not oppose medical services being moved the waiver services for the disabled should remain with the local organizations.
Bolin said a sister company had been told by one of the companies bidding on the services they “planned to save a lot of money on waiver services.”
The Medicaid waiver allows a disabled person to receive home-based services rather than be placed in an institution. Home-based services are often less expensive.
Vice President for Administration Clif Sperry said they’ve tried without success to get their position across to administration representatives.
“We keep trying to explain to the governor’s people what we do day to day,” he said. “They either don’t accept that or don’t understand it.”
The commission took no action on the proposed resolution.