A budget provision to automatically reduce next year’s budget if the Kansas Supreme Court demands lawmakers add more money to schools is dead. Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, proposed the amendment to strip about $300 million of non-essential funding from the budget if the Court rules against the state in the ongoing school funding lawsuit.
Landwehr said the proposal would have put state agencies on notice that the legislature isn’t guaranteeing all the money in the budget.
“It’s the cleanest way. It’s the safest way. It puts our agencies on notice… that even though that money has been appropriated at this time, it may not be there,” she said.
Lawmakers approved a $525 million increase to school funding a few weeks ago, but a miscalculation in the legislation–worth approximately $80 million– will require lawmakers to take another stab at the school funding formula before the session concludes on May 4. The Kansas Supreme Court will decide whether the new financing mechanism meets constitutional muster after the session ends.
After stripping Landwehr’s proposal, the Kansas House added new spending to the $16 billion two-year budget lawmakers approved last year. Some of the new spending includes offering pay raises to state judges, worth about $8 million and adding funding to higher education. A final House vote on the proposal could come as early as Saturday, before the proposal moves to the Senate for consideration.
Lawmakers launched a last ditch effort to expand Medicaid budget during the wide-ranging, six hour debate. Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stillwell Republican, told lawmakers that the number of uninsured Kansans dropped last year.
“The Kansas uninsured rate is only 8.4 percent,” he said. “That is below the U.S. average.” He said that average includes state that have expanded Medicaid. “We do an excellent job with healthcare in Kansas.”
Rep. Brett Parker, an Overland Park Democrat, offered the expansion amendment to expand Medicaid through the end of the 2019 budget. Parker’s effort marked one of several attempts to expand Medicaid throughout the session. Last year, 81 House members voted to approve expansion. It passed the Senate. Then Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto pen killed it, and the House fell short of overriding his veto.
Far fewer lawmakers supported expanding Medicaid in Friday’s vote. It failed 66-56.
Both the House and Senate will work on Saturday.