“We’re at a crossroads.”
That’s how Senate President Susan Wagle described the stalemate on tax policy negotiations between the House and Senate. The Senate favors extending a six-tenths of a cent sales tax, but the House has balked at that. The impasse has brought the legislative wrap-up session to a crawl while Gov. Sam Brownback and other GOP leaders meet behind closed doors to craft a solution to impending budget problems caused by income tax cuts approved last year.
That’s how many developmentally disabled Kansans are on waiting lists for state services to improve their quality of life. GOP House lawmakers voted to block new money to take people off waiting lists unless those already getting services are swept into the state’s reformed Medicaid system, KanCare, which is managed by three private insurance companies. Many developmentally disabled Kansans and their advocates have been resisting inclusion in KanCare for more than a year.
State universities appear to be trending downward as lawmakers struggle to deal with tax issues, increasing the likelihood that the proposed 2 percent to 4 percent cuts for higher education will be dealt with in the late hours of negotiations this week – or beyond. The less new money lawmakers bring in by eliminating tax deductions and extending some or all of the recession-era sales tax increase, the more likely universities will lose state money and be forced to raise tuition or cut programs or staff.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Most lawmakers are stranded until a compromise tax plan emerges. That’s poised to lead to a critical vote that would trigger a new round of budget discussions. If lawmakers can agree on spending cuts, which are likely to cause more politically painful debate, the legislative session could come to an end within its usual 90 days. The 90th day falls on Thursday, May 23.
For more legislative news, go to www.kansas.com/politics and follow @BrentWistrom on Twitter.