Kansas lawmakers look ahead to 2016 session

(AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Lower than anticipated revenue numbers for the month of December spell bad news for Kansas lawmakers.

The start of a new legislative session is just a week away and one of their first priorities will have to be filling yet another budget gap.

It’s been six months since lawmakers wrapped up a record long session.

When they left in June, the budget was balanced, but as they return there’s a $14 million deficit they’ll have to deal with among other things.

Issues including school finance, judicial selection, Medicaid expansion and, “the biggest issue facing our state is the continual downward trend in our revenue and I’m hoping that there will be a push to talk about tax revenue reform,” said Rep. Tom Phillips, a Republican from Manhattan.

But because it’s an election year others aren’t so optimistic.

“I don’t think we’ll go near that this session. I think what will happen is that you will see..you’ll see some cuts to some already barren agencies,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat from Topeka.

“Patchwork” as Senator Kelly calls it.

It’s something many republicans hope a $2.6 million efficiency study will help them find.

“In talking with some of my colleagues, they’re hoping that the consultants will come up with some significant cost savings through that study,” said Phillips.”

Despite all the policy issues they’re faced with, many lawmakers are hoping this session will be short and sweet.

“There’s talk right now about it actually being a relatively short session. That the push will actually be on getting the Legislature to wrap up its business pretty quickly this year,” said Phillips.

Others say that will depend on one very important decision from the State Supreme Court.

“The court ruling on school finance. That could send us into a tailspin and force us to be here a significant amount of time as we try to deal with implications,” said Kelly.

Either way it’s shaping up to be an interesting session already.

“Never a dull moment in the state of Kansas these days,” said Kelly.

Lawmakers will officially reconvene at 2:00 p.m. next Monday.

On Tuesday, Governor Sam Brownback will deliver his annual State of the State address.

If state revenues continue falling short, he could step in and make across the board cuts of his own.

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