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With Fall Elections Looming, Don't Expect Much from This Legislature


The Kansas State legislature convened this week. 

Some legislators are hoping for a 75-day session. Senate President Susan Wagle said at a Wichita Pachyderm meeting at the end of December that if the Kansas Supreme Court rules that the funding of K-12 schools is inadequate, then the session is likely to extend beyond 75 days. Of course, many of the legislators would view a court-ordered increase in K-12 school funding as treading on what they think is the responsibility of the legislature. The court could exercise restraint because several of the justices are up for a retention vote this fall, and they are likely to face a campaign against their retention because of the court’s rulings on school funding.  

The expectation is that taxes will not be on the legislature’s agenda. A $14 million shortfall in revenues is expected for the present fiscal year ending in June, and a $170 million shortfall is expected for the next fiscal year. If, as anticipated, no tax proposals are considered this session, Governor Brownback will likely be forced to make across-the-board program cuts. A private efficiency study commissioned by the state is to report this week on how effectively and efficiently the state is using its revenues. There are doubts that the study will point the way to economic efficiencies that will generate enough revenue to fill any budget gaps.   

President Harry Truman did not think that government could be run like a business, and he said that if you have efficient government you have a dictatorship. With the fall elections looming for all legislative members, we should not expect the legislature to report out a proposal for a new school funding formula or any other proposals that would be controversial.

Dr. Ken Ciboski is an associate professor emeritus of political science at Wichita State University.