Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session

KANSAS TAXPAYERS NETWORK
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July 19, 2005

Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session
By Karl Peterjohn

The Kansas legislature abjectly surrendered their fiscal powers to the demands of the Kansas Supreme Court at the end of their special session in July. This victory for this liberal activist court and Governor Sebelius has generated a lot of news articles and positive editorial commentary for all of them in the Kansas press. Sadly, a significant part of the story behind this constitutional and spending battle has either been totally ignored or under reported. Here are some important pieces of information that should not be overlooked in the wake of these transformational changes in Kansas government.

First, let’s begin with the basics. Kansas’ General Fund will now officially top $5 billion for the first time. This is an important milestone when you consider that the state had its first $1 billion budget only 25 years ago in 1980. This spending growth is more than three times faster than Kansans’ wages and is over $1,850 for every Kansan each year.

In addition, the special session means that the state’s All Funds budget that includes highway, Medicaid, and a variety of other non General Fund spending will now top $11.5 billion for the first time. This budget passed the $10 billion spending milestone only a couple of years ago in 2003 but is growing rapidly as welfare and medical spending is included.

Despite all of the inaccurate information about “tight budgets” and even “budget cuts,” the growth of state government in Kansas is rapid and continuing. Many spending proponents were pleased to see the growth in state revenues during the first 11 months of the 2005 fiscal year. This 6.9 percent increase appears impressive until you consider the fact that this is well below the average growth in the other 49 states.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 12 that federal revenues are 14.6 percent or $204 billion above the previous year’s level. Besides showing the success of President Bush’s 2003 tax cuts, this data is important to Kansans. This data clearly shows that the relative decline of Kansas compared to the rest of the country is continuing. This data warns Kansans about the economic peril they now face if they want their children to find jobs in the Sunflower state after graduation.

The decline in Kansas is also showing up in the continued small declines in public school enrollment. In the last seven years there has been a small and continuing decline in student enrollment. That decline is a factor that is largely ignored in the debate over “budget cuts for schools,” while the reality is the exact opposite.

The $290 million state spending increase in schools is going to mean a huge windfall for spending in Kansas public schools. Since the enrollment has declined to less than 442,000 FTE students, this is going to mean over $650 per pupil or over $13,000 per classroom with 20 students in it. This figure does not include additional local or federal tax dollars that are likely to increase too.

This spending spree is the tip of the spending iceberg from the very liberal and appointed Kansas Supreme Court. The plaintiff school districts that funded the school finance lawsuit can begin their spending spree. The less visible balance for this spending spree is another $600 million this Sebelius and Democrat dominated court is demanding that will become vividly visible in six months. Hang onto your wallets or you can join the line of people, like former Governor Bill Graves, who used to be Kansans and now have moved to fiscally sane parts of the country where legislators vote on budgets and judges don’t legislate from the bench.

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