“I don’t think that’s a wise place for us to cut.”
– Gov. Sam Brownback on the proposed 2 and 4 percent cuts to state universities included in the House and Senate spending plans. The higher ed cuts are a major part of the spending reductions needed to accommodate income tax cuts Brownback signed into law last year. Lawmakers are working on a plan to bring in new state revenue by reducing the value of tax deductions and extending a temporary sales tax increase scheduled to expire in July. Negotiations continue this week.
That’s how many signatures a coalition of business and nonprofit groups submitted on petitions to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office urging the governor and lawmakers to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Brownback hasn’t said whether he wants expansion, and lawmakers seem disinclined to support it. But they’ve increasingly advocated for some solution to provide insurance to more people some other, unspecified way. Senate President Susan Wagle, for example, has cited an agreement in Arkansas to expand health coverage using Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance instead of Medicaid. So far, officials in 26 states have agreed to expand Medicaid, and at least 17 have opposed it.
Abortion opponents appear to be winning more battles as the Kansas Senate looks at laws to block tax breaks for providers. Meanwhile, a new push has emerged to ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to a measure signed by the governor in North Dakota last week.
Lawmakers are headed into the last week of their regular legislative session. Leaders are demanding that members finish debates on taxes and the budget by Friday, allowing them to go home for about a month before reconvening for a week or two of wrapup. Lawmakers are expected to hammer out differences between bills and take quick action to clear the legislative decks and provide at least partial victories for conservatives and the governor on taxes, lower spending, gun rights, abortion, limits to unemployment benefits and education reform.
— Brent Wistrom