Kansas lawmakers move to shrink civil service as Senate tackles pensions, power plant bills

By John Hanna
The Associated Press

Kansas is expected to reduce the number of state workers covered by its civil service system after the Republican-dominated Legislature approved a bill Tuesday making it easier for state agencies to reclassify jobs.

The Senate approved the civil service bill, 24-16. The House approved the same measure in March, and it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The bill embodies an initiative from his administration.

Passage of the measure came as senators also approved a measure on public pensions and a bill requiring legislators to sign off on any plan from the state for complying with a new federal rule designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Following is a look at significant legislative developments Tuesday: To read the entire article, click here.

Analysis…

GOP lawmakers pursue revision
of Kansas business break,
despite Brownback stance

By John Hanna
The Associated Press

Top Republican legislators in Kansas appear increasingly ready to reconsider a business tax break that’s been a cherished economic policy for GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, possibly making it more difficult to close a projected budget shortfall.

Brownback is clear that he wants to preserve an exemption from personal income taxes for 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers. He calls the policy, enacted in 2012 as part of a larger package of income tax cuts, the “small business accelerator” and describes it as a catalyst for job growth. Continue reading

Other views…

Kansas shows us what could happen if Republicans win in 2016

By Catherine Rampell
The Washington Post

No more pencils, no more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks.

Usually this is an anthem of celebration, of respite from the angst-inducing strictures of K-12 schooling. But this year, across Kansas, the jingle is coming a little sooner than expected, and with mournful undertones.

At least eight Kansas school districts recently announced that they’re starting summer break early this year, and not because kids have already learned so much that they deserve a few extra days off. It’s because these schools ran out of money, thanks to state leaders’ decision to ax education spending midyear to plug an ever-widening hole in their budget. Continue reading

Brownback proposes expenditure reduction of $72 million

Gov. Sam Brownback submitted a budget amendment to the Legislature on Thursday to reduce state general fund expenditures by $72 million and ease the burden of producing balanced budgets in the next two fiscal years.

The recommendation to members of the House Appropriations Committee was in response to a bleak revenue analysis demonstrating lawmakers had to close a $400 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Tax collections to Kansas’ treasury collapsed in accordance with major business and individual income tax reductions approved by Brownback and Republican legislators in 2012 and 2013. A state economist estimated the state would have $1 billion in extra revenue in the next fiscal year if the tax reform bills hadn’t been adopted.

Continue reading

Brownback reduces school funding; Olathe hardest hit

From The Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday announced $44.5 million in education cuts to help patch a budget hole blamed on deep income tax reductions he signed into law.

Brownback’s plan takes $28 million, or 1.5 percent, out of elementary and secondary education, including $5 million from Johnson County schools. The districts taking the biggest hits will be Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley.

The Republican governor also sliced more than $16 million, or 2 percent, from higher education, something he traveled the state campaigning for in 2013 when it was lawmakers who wanted to cut funds for colleges and universities. Continue reading

Height of arrogance

KanCare officials need well crafted charm offensive

By FINN M. BULLERS
Freelance writer/editor

When a holiday guest enters your home, social etiquette Midwestern style demands your best manners — maybe a welcoming cup of pretty-strong coffee and most certainly a Scandinavian sweet.

So it came as a simple case of bad manners — not to mention poor public image creation — when for-profit, managed-care officials in Kansas snarled at “East Coast” interlopers who in December had the audacity to “parachute” into the Topeka prairie to lecture them on how to improve the care of 380,000 Kansans. Continue reading

Justice Department may probe profit over quality care

KanCare draws ‘deep concern’ from National Council on Disability

By FINN M. BULLERS
Freelance writer/editor

TOPEKA, Kan. — Big news on the Kansas managed care front could reshape the health care landscape and growing national debate on the merits of privatized, for-profit care.

In a Dec. 13 letter from the National Council on Disability, several significant and non-binding recommendations to improve the state’s for-profit Medicaid plan — also known as KanCare — were made to the President and Congress.

“It’s clear to NCD that many unresolved issues remain for people with disabilities” in Kansas, the report said. “The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should conduct an oversight review of the current administration of KanCare.” Continue reading

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