Check this spot on Sundays for a few quick hits about what’s driving the debate in the Legislature.
"I know many people have different words for efficiencies. I do not believe these to be cuts.”
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— Shawn Sullivan, the governor’s budget director, presenting Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budgets for 2016 and 2017, which include a combined $1.38 billion in spending reductions and sweeps from state highway and other dedicated funds.
“I guess the question is does the governor have the details…I hesitate to say he’s deliberately making it hazy – maybe he is – but there is this tendency to say that I’m just going to deal with what the Legislature puts on my desk.”
— Mark Desetti, legislative director of KNEA, the state’s largest teacher union, on the governor’s plans to overhaul the school finance system.
That’s how much the state would levy in taxes on each pack of cigarettes if a tax increase proposed by Brownback is approved by lawmakers.
The governor was the center of attention this week. He was sworn in for his second term and delivered his State of the State address. Brownback laid out aggressive policy goals for the next year, including a repeal of the state’s school finance formula and a constitutional amendment to change the selection process for Kansas Supreme Court justices.
But it wasn’t all a party. Brownback faced uncomfortable questions about the ongoing federal investigation into his campaign’s finances. He also proposed $211 million in tax increases for the next fiscal year, including tax hikes on cigarettes and liquor and a slowing of his income tax plan that’s similar to what his former Democratic rival, Paul Davis, proposed in June.
The budget and taxes will dominate this session. Some lawmakers oppose the proposed tax hikes on liquor and tobacco; others are gearing up to fight proposed changes in education funding. But there are a plethora of side issues: A proposal to legalize medical marijuana will receive public hearings in the coming week. And moderate Republicans in the House are crafting a proposal to expand Medicaid in Kansas.