ISSUES 2017 04/23/17

Steve McIntosh
Sunday, April 23rd

Veteran political analyst and lobbyist Bernie Koch discusses the current session of the Kansas Legislature

00:23:59

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

This is issues too funny seventeen I'm Steve Macintosh and our guest is political analyst Bernie cook. Welcome to issues Tony seventy Bernie I Steve Mills background this point tell us about your career. As a journalist covering state politics what you professional role is today it's always gonna have little background. Well the probably the easiest way to say it is this is mine 43. I think 43 44 legislative session. I was a reporter for many years in a television particularly television radio. And then worked for the which dog metro chamber of commerce for 21 years went to Tulsa chamber. Now I have mild lobbying firm and I I've got three clients Kansas economic progress council. The school counselors and Harvey county council. There Bernie we're here would you start out I don't know if our matches I worked my way through college at a television station in Joplin Missouri in Joplin a UHF station. I'd wanna go to dinner with the the news director and he always get a phone call from somebody that. They couldn't get the station and we have to go to somebody's house or apartment and he can have to fix the UHF antenna so they could not the signal. And we'd end up not eating dinner which I just never would learn I'd go to B Brady go to did Ernie so we have to stop over here and. And they're starting it pretty close the bottom of TV analysts warn you from originally and I'm originally from Cleveland Ohio I did at that out here. Back here in the midwest. Kansas legislature is in the break right now but Alex is breaking in would they return earnings. That's about a three week break they go back may first. And that's for the veto session and still have. What are called the three big issues to address. They have to deal with the budget they have to deal with revenues to pay for the budget that probably means an income tax increase. Maybe some other sorts of tax increases or revenue enhancements. And then they have to deal with school finance and they've got to a court decision looming and if that'll fix it by June 30. Legally schools will not be able to continue to operate. Now you think this session will break any records like. Like we haven't advanced as far as length of sessions I don't know they say somebody told me that may twenty. Fourth would be the 100 day. And they hate to go that long it like to keep it within ninety days there's some magic number about that that's normally what what recession. Supposed to be. You're gonna talk about the big issues that remain to be resolved at first can you tell us about maybe ease some of the work the lawmakers have been able to accomplish of the Iraq. Been able to send anything to the governor's desk can get a signed. Well they sent an income tax increase to the governor's desk and he vetoed it. And they were able to override his veto in the Kansas house they fell three votes short in in the Kansas senate so we've been working on. An income tax bill they also passed Medicaid expansion and they were unable to. Override the governor's veto but I think they're gonna start that up again. One of the things about Medicaid expansion that has happened since the the end of the regular session about April 6 or seventh is that. There has been have been news stories and that's been confirmed Saint Francis hospital in two peca. It plans to close this nets 16100 jobs in Topeka and that has really. Shaken things up all of the sudden people who were opponents are gone oh my gosh. Local hospitals gonna close what are we gonna do they're they're talking about merging with another hospital up their storm club Vail. But suddenly. In Medicaid expansion was dead but. There's a former state senator from Pittsburg. Bill Martin used to say. Well and I hope I'm in the Statehouse things have a way of coming back to life in this building and then and then I think Medicaid expansion. Sounds to me like politics got close to hold fire and really did it and some of those people out there and third string and bloody murder a while. Popular talk about that. Concealed carry and give you see it and let's talk about the guns on campus and so forth July 1. We are supposed to by state law permit. Concealed carry on our university campuses and other buildings and a billing public buildings public buildings and there where is that right now what's what's the latest on that well the it goes into effect July for him but they've discovered that there's there's a big problem and that is. The law will allow. Guns to be carried into mental institutions. Mental health institutions. Metal hospitals. And nobody wants that means if someone has a serious mental problem you don't want them. You don't want them in the hospital with with a gun. And I think everybody pretty much realize is that. That and they need to to do something about that but they are concerned that once it gets up for debate in the house of the senate. That there will be people who don't want guns and other places like. College campuses and there will be an amendment so there's this kind of parliamentary game of chicken going on. In fact the these states senator Jacob turner who was just named this new state treasurer was the chairman of senate federal state affairs committee. He had been blocking it any kind of gun legislation from coming out of his committee. So they news that he's put the media the legislation in a different committee. As senator Caroline again from our communities. Committee and and there there's been some discussion there have been hearings. But. I think most people really did know that they don't wanna have gotten those mental institutions but they're waiting until the last minute. To pass the legislation so that they can say well there's no time left to deal with the college decisions situation. It's it's really politically. Fraught outlook. From each element for why I've seen and heard this concealed carry that news is going to be. Pretty complicated right up to the news. At the July 1 there's going to be. Well it's it's not been one of my issues that directly except that represent Hardin County council of governments Richard. The county in the seven cities are wreaking. And they're somewhat concerned because. It it'll Lyle's. Weapons to be carried him. City and county. Buildings unless there's security in that security can cost. How Arizona legislature responded to them massive wildfires in western Kansas estimates that they can do to help out on the there has been some legislation past them not that familiar with it but it today it has to do with property tax exemptions. On fences. When when. These this fencing that's been destroyed by the fires can cost. Tens of thousands of dollars particularly 1101000. Miles at some mile fencing used. And end up and there's been a desire to do something. It's it's not a lot that they can help with but. There's there's gonna give you some sort of tax break with. One of the biggest concern right now I'd cement is that these of budget deficit. Where's that one very inclusive. Close and accurate people who pulled a big hole well we've we've dealt with the current year the current year's fiscal year 2017 and ends June 30. And the legislature passed in the governor just signed a bill to deal with that it's called rescission bill. Because of revenues not coming from him and lots of people say and I believe this as well as because of the 2012 income tax cuts. The current your budget was 290. Million dollars short. They only dealt with that by sort of borrowing. Scheme. They took money from pooled money investment forward which is sort of an investment fund and they will pay it back in in the future. They had they had wanted to delay some payments to the State's pension fund Kansas public employees retirement fund. But. House represented as would not go along with that and today. Passed a budget that does not to media affect the pensions of teachers and other public workers so this this year's budgets taking care of a for the next two years and we've been since governor Brownback has been an office we did in two and a two year budget. The next two years fiscal year 2018 and 2019. A budget has passed the senate. And been sent to house the house version of the budget has come out of committee but they debated. Not much support for the so called flat tax. But no I only got a surprise only got three votes yes and economic how to follow that the sequence of events that. The legislature passed. And income tax bills raise money to help fix the problem that the state has been facing the governor vetoed it there were three vote short senate. And before they moved on. You know three votes is not much you can tweak that bill and I believe that they will get income tax that is three brackets. At least three block brackets income tax increased. The the flat tax which floated in and a lot of people said we want is we want to see a flat tax debated first including governor. And then M and we'll see if that applies to a proposed to four point 7% I think flat just one rate. And there are some other things in there only got three votes even the committee chair of the proposed the bill did not vote for it. So it's back to the drawing board. And in some people believe that when they get back. May first pretty quickly there will be opening act. And I'll tell you Steve. One of the things that was really earthshaking. In the last year was the election in August and the election in September legislature turned over quite a few seats allowed people to run for re election. A lot of very conservative legislatures. Legislators were defeated. And there's a new crop of legislators that are saying we want to fix this problem we want to fix it this year we don't want to come back next year. And they are very focused on raising the money needed and I think they will do that are there are so close if the governor doesn't sign it. Mean think about two thirds of the house. Overrode a governor's veto and they were only three votes short senate at a majority. I think that they'll do it I don't know how fast they'll do it but it will be difficult because. What do you do with the budget how you spend that money the school finance question but I'm I really believe it. There listening to issues Tony seventeen on the Entercom radio stations and I guess is political analyst Bernie Connecticut education. Makes up more than half of our state spending and we're told we're not spending an affair give us an update on the education issue Bernie please. Well there are two committees that have been looking at this and just let's just go back I guess to the Kansas Supreme Court decision which was. It didn't name a money in my account but said it's not adequate. So senate committee has been looking at how to we rewrite school finance for the plant past two years we've. Suspended the school finance formula that had been in place for twenty years. And so we're gonna issue block grants well court says block grants or not. Legal so while. We've got to come up with us a new school finance for well guess what it's not new it's really the same one they've just green for him some things. It's it's basically pretty much the same so the house has come out with a with a formula. That they're expected to vote on it's expected to come out of committee when they come back first. It increases. General state aid and special education by about a 150 million dollars next year. And then it adds a 150 million dollars more each year for the next four years so that's a total of 750 million dollars of an increase. It it will increase after that based on the midwest Consumer Price Index beginning with a 20/20 two. 20/20 three school year and hope I'm hoping that you and I are both retired by then cut and listening to the radio do. At the people try to figure all all of this stuff but. Some other things that changed you know right now. The money that the state puts him in is based on. Abouts what what's the body count in the schools about September twice. They've changed that to base be based on the prior year or the second prior for a proceeding here whichever is higher. That will that'll make things for planning purposes be a little bit better legislature will come back into session and suddenly. Enrollment is gone up and they've got to come up with several. Million more dollars. Is for planning purposes that'll that'll work so we'll see what happens when it comes back. You don't you saw people who come in and saying you know the it's cost too much to tell us too much to educate these kids in Canada and we need to save some money. So all throughout this formula and do something else but. Into that at the end of the day it costs a lot of money to educate kids well it doesn't you know need to go after back to the old planet is the if you. Look at what has happened to school spending. And and people will play games with with capers money being put in and say well let's money that went to the schools well aware of the schools for about ninety seconds. Those schools and an incentive they send it right back but if you look at in classroom spending. And you look at the number of students that have grown and you also look at the cost of living. You know if you count for all of those things has been fairly flat. Okay now are Howard the colleges and universities. During this time around talking about K through twelve there but what we're talking about the secondary spending has been pretty flat and continues to be pretty flat there. You know the universities have had. Yes and have the opportunity to find money elsewhere they can try to raise money from alumni and from other people but that they've raise tuitions and we've had. We've had pretty hefty tuition increases over the last two. 1015 years it's it's been. They've been pretty spectacular increases in tuition and that's. That is troubling. You know there's research that says for every year you add. To the education level of the population you increase. Gross domestic product by portents of a percent which is could be pretty for. Significant. As we've had like zero GDP growth in Kansas. Over the last year over a year period recently so. So. We've we've got this higher tuition which is a road block forward students to get a higher education in one of the things that's happened is this year. In Rolen and higher educational Kansas actually down one point 2%. That is extremely troubling. Particularly when higher education really pace plays an important part in in the economic growth of the state into the point where people just can't afford your school. And right now I think that's what's happening now you know the schools that are growing are the community colleges and those with cheaper. Cheaper tuition like forty state university. What's it again let's go back in and talk about Medicaid for just a minute and the other lightened up there I mean. I think you have to get to be about 55 years old before you start to. Try to figure out what's the difference between Medicare Medicaid right after I. Did it ever comes out and out and total Medicare and Medicaid two different things in Medicaid is basically it. Supporting our our poorest people people who can afford. A tell us about provides a wealth venture yet what's going that well. And you have to go back to the Affordable Care Act obamacare obamacare GAAP and part of obamacare what was. You know the the the theory was if we cover these people. That can't afford health insurance if we get them to get health insurance in some way if we subsidize that are whatever and and the other part of it is very controversial is it required shoot it if you don't get it. You're supposed to be penalized when you do your income to you today. You you pay the equivalent penalty if you don't have health insurance and that's what. Many people are very opposed to it's probably the thing that is most onerous about it. But part of part of it was. If we if we get these people covered. We'll take care of their health problems earlier and it won't be as expensive. And so we we've had people that have been Q covered by Medicaid. And we have people that are employed and have health insurance. And there there's a gap in the middle. And the US Supreme Court ruled when they took a look at Obama care. That that was not constitutional. To require the states to do that the states could. Vote that could decide on their own two except through that middle area that was uncovered. And several states have and done at about I think 29 have not in Kansas is one of them so the issue the argument is. We covered the the porous to the poor. That people who. Are employed and have more resources. It can get health insurance but there's this group in the middle that is not covered and they tend to be the working port. They tend to be people with a job or two jobs or three jobs but they just can't afford health insurance. And that's what that's who would be covered I think in Kansas it's about a 170000 people and they tend to. When they get sick they wait wait and then go to emergency room. And then the hospitals have to have to treat them and the hospitals don't get paid. And they have to bite the bullet. And that's one of the things that's happened in with this thing Francis hospital situation and peak. They they had the nine million dollars a year in in people it would have been covered by Medicaid. There's there's been talk of pay raises for some state employees. A sort of thought that something over the years they've been taking care of it. Not for quite awhile they got enough players. They just to give a pay raise recently I think to. Uniform prison guards they admin and not seem to pray raise him in seven years and we've had some. Correctional institution some prisons where. The guards have not had a pay raise. And so long that the turnovers is tremendous 30%. I think the elder radio facility at one time today. And they turn overrated uniformed. Correctional officers 38%. And it's a tough job and that is I would Wear a job you know they've had trouble with the people and state mental institutions. Keeping them tremendous turn over there are. They'd have to pay them overtime to make sure that the places staffed and now they're gonna have to deal maybe with somebody come and ago. It's under. Gives you an update on the status of those roads highways infrastructure. I am glad that you asked that I think there there is some desire to figure out what to do the situation with. With roads is pretty bad they've pretty much put on hold new construction projects and lest they were under Wednesday. Ready so new construction is pretty much delayed. Permanently. The and preservation or basic maintenance has been greatly reduced. There a little reported presentation of the senate Ways and Means Committee January 25 Qaeda predicted. A substantial decrease in preservation under the governor the governor's proposed budget. Arcade out officials said only about 28 million dollars was available for preservation projects. Compared to 88 million dollars for the current year. That's quite a bit at one time they were talking about only being able to do. 150. Of the roads every year and preservation. Once every fifty years is not enough time roads so here's here's what they've done. There's one bill that they've. Does not move four for five calls for a five cent gas tax increase to help pay for. Some preservation. There's a house that's in the senate and house has a bill that is an eleven cent. Gas tax increase. And the other thing is one of these budgets. I believe it's a senate budget as an 18%. Raises the 18% limit on an annual debt service for 2018 and twelve and nineteen. And it gives Qaeda out the authority to do add an additional 400 million dollars in bonding. That would infuse some money into the road reservations and be able to keep. Keep by the maintenance on the roads but we have taken so much money. Probably a couple billion dollars or more over the road from the road project projects over the last 56. Years that. You know our roads are still in good shape because we took care for so long. But it doesn't take long for the candidature. Uncorked Kansas legislation stronger in grocery stores yes. This has been kind of. Recurring recurring yes issue for a long time and they finally reached some sort of settlement. A little a little piece of this issue the grocery stores and wanted us to sell. Strong beer and liquor for some time and I think what is driven by a recent legislation which the governor's side. Has been the fact that Colorado and Oklahoma and all these other states are now allowing it in some form. And 32 beer which is what's all the aggression towards it's probably going to go away the company's. The breweries are not gonna make it anymore they're just gonna make the strong beer. And so of the agreement. Which nobody's really happy with is that beginning in a year you can't just run in the grocery store and buy strong beer soon. But in the year April 1 when he nineteen. The bill allows convenience. And grocery stores to sell 6% strong beer rather than the three twos or malt beverage here. It also allows liquor stores they gets up and out of this now. The that's the only place you can buy stronger now but now they can sell non alcoholic products for up to 20% of their revenues. They could sell cigarettes and lottery tickets though those don't count towards the 20% that they can sell snacks and chips and things like that. That is something they have well and so both sides get something they have water. So. Bin it would back in session again. May first may first they go back for the by the public but the veto session followed the veto session. Years ago was three to four days. Remember thing I've seen or heard from you told me it looks like there's going to be you'd probably going to be some tax increases going Ellington I would I would if I had to bet I would say yes. It is a long way to go a lot of it a lot of agreement you're gonna have to be reached and L or atom here Nancy. Try to wrap up this session and you think maybe that got to try to do admit. In ninety days or less which they use it and it. We don't have another record breaking launch session doing Bert well the majority leave the Kansas house Don Heineman told me he wants to be able. Start planning about basics. Right thanks Bernie for being with us always and an enlightening session are guess political analyst Bernie cut that's all for this edition of money seventeen issues when he 78. We'll be back next week thank you for listing and Steve Macintosh.
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