News from the Capitol--January 17, 2016

As I wrote you earlier this week, the Kansas Legislative Session began on January 11th, and we immediately began our work. Though this was not a week where votes were cast, it was a week of important fact-gathering which will serve as the basis of critical decisions later in the session.

The first important matter of the week was the annual State of the State address by Governor Sam Brownback, where he laid out his priorities for the session. It was a good speech, which I encourage you to read. I was pleased with some of what he emphasized, particularly adjusting the property tax lid effective date so it starts sooner, before more counties rush to raise their property taxes; reforming our antiquated Supreme Court selection process, and the importance of continuing our work on establishing a new education funding structure that focuses on innovation and most importantly, puts more money in the classroom. Each of these issues were priorities I listed in my initial newsletter, so I am optimistic that there will be a push on each of those important subjects.

I also certainly echo his continued opposition to the transfer of terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo) to Leavenworth, and increasing security at Kansas National Guard facilities. The safety of Kansans is paramount and I stand with him in those important security-related matters.

The second important fact-gathering event was the report from the Kansas Director of Budget, Shawn Sullivan, who rolled out the governor’s budget for the fiscal year. Some of his recommendations will require legislation to accomplish, including reorganizing the structure of the Kansas Bioscience Authority so that it works in broader cooperation with the private sector, and implementing step therapy within the Medicaid system so patients can try less expensive drugs first before higher priced options. 

Director Sullivan also showed legislators an important chart (see below), which demonstrates the significant progress we have made in reducing spending the past few years. While I and other conservative legislators continue to work diligently to reduce the size of government and the associated spending required to fund it, it is important to recognize the significant steps we have taken to reduce the rate of growth in our budget.

The chart is striking! Since 2011, spending has only increased by an average of 1.8% annually, which is below the rate of inflation. Past administrations increased state spending by an average of over 10% annually which was an unsustainable trend, and which was responsible for the fundamental structural waste and inefficiencies we are now beginning to address. During this time, we have made investments in K-12 education, despite the claims by the left to the contrary. 

Remember, Kansas is not its own country and it exists in a world of excessive regulations from the EPA, burdensome Obamacare taxes, and a spike in Medicaid caseloads, not to mention the 2% national recovery rate which is due to Obama Administration policies. This is the worst recovery in American history. 

Of course, those who want to grow government and spend money will not like this, and that’s their right. However, those of us who campaigned on reducing spending and shrinking government are proud of the efforts we’ve made thus far.

Efficiency Study
A critical part of reducing spending and shrinking the size of government is doing so in a way that truly cuts the fat and eliminates the waste while not negatively impacting Kansans and the services they have come to expect.

The Kansas Legislature meets approximately 90 days a year and it does not have the staff or expertise to study each and every agency in the state and examine where there are inefficiencies, duplications, waste, or simply things we could do better. Essentially, this is about taking a scalpel to our budget rather than merely slashing things across the board, which may penalize a needed agency that is operating well.

That is why when we passed the budget deal last year it included funds to conduct an efficiency study. After receiving bids from numerous outside consulting firms, the firm of Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) was chosen. A&M has spent the past several months reviewing the spending and efficiency of state agencies and K-12 education. 

This week we received an interim report from A&M, which recommended $2 billion in savings over the next ten years, which amounts to over $200 million each fiscal year. Read the full interim report and watch for the final report in the coming weeks which I will also share. 

After we receive it we will then be tasked with evaluating recommendations and determining which ones to implement. I look forward to that process. Most of all, I’m gratified that the amount we invested in this study has the potential to pay off in a very dramatic way.

Kansas Caucus
The Shawnee-area location for the Kansas Caucus on March 5th has been announced:

Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School
6720 Caenen
Shawnee, KS 66213

The time of the Caucus is from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you can’t make it to this location, there are eight others in Johnson County and over 100 in the state of Kansas.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please respond to this e-mail. My wife, Diane, will be assisting with the leadership of this caucus site, and 20-30 volunteers are need for performing various tasks.

In Closing
Thank you for reading this week’s newsletter. As always, if you’re interested in any issue or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am honored to serve the people of the 39th District.