The Kansas legislature has convened for their regular session. This session will have a significantly different tone than the previous eight sessions with Democrat governor-elect, Laura Kelly, taking the reins of the executive branch. However, while the electorate voted in Kelly, they also elected a more conservative House. In fact, both the House and the Senate have maintained strong enough republican majorities to override gubernatorial vetoes should the party stay united on issues. There have already been two state senators and one state representative switch their party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. Only two more defections in either legislative chamber could alter the balance of power, as the veto-proof majority would no longer exist.
Current projections, show that the state general fund budget will end the current fiscal year with a surplus of approximately $900 million. However, those same projections show that the state budget runs out of money within a few years at current spending and taxation levels. This is of significant importance as Governor-elect Kelly is building long term state budget plans that will match many of the campaign promises made that will require more revenue. Kelly has indicated that more money is needed for foster care, education, transportation, Medicaid expansion, and other key issues. Kelly and the legislature will have to grapple with the school finance decision by the Kansas Supreme Court. In the court’s recent ruling on school finance, the court directed the legislature to provide potentially hundreds of millions more money to K-12 education in order to meet constitutional muster as determined by the court. As is the norm, this issue will likely dominate the budget making process. This discussion will likely lead to further discussions regarding a constitutional amendment to clarify that education spending should remain in the purview of the legislature.