By Tim Carpenter
January 13, 2016
Demise of the KBA as a state-sponsored economic development agency striving to build investment and research in the bioscience field in Kansas had been expected following a vote by the board to privatize operations. The proposal transforming KBA requires passage of a bill by the Kansas Legislature.
“This would allow portfolio companies in the Kansas area, Kansas City area or wherever to partner with experienced investors in the private sector to retain those jobs in the portfolio currently within the KBA,” said Shawn Sullivan, the governor’s budget director.
Sullivan said sale of KBA assets is expected to generate at least $25 million for the state’s bottom line and allow withholding of the $7 million annual appropriation to the authority. Both amounts were plugged into Brownback’s fix for a revenue shortfall.
Sullivan told House and Senate budget committee members movement of the tobacco money in the 2017 fiscal year starting in July into the government’s general budget would improve operating transparency.
The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, the bipartisan agency with oversight of state grants from the Children’s Initiatives Fund replenished with payments from the national tobacco settlement, would be moved to the Kansas State Department of Education. The CIF would be eliminated under the governor’s plan.
“We think it allows for greater transparency and accountability of that money in future years,” he said.
Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children, said the governor’s deletion of the Children’s Initiative Fund and placement of funding in the general treasury would jeopardize the future of critical early-childhood education programs. The change will hand the Brownback administration unprecedented access to scarce dollars promised to Kansas children, she said.
“This isn’t just a shortsighted budget recommendation,” Cotsoradis said. “This will dismantle one of Kansas’ most innovative, forward-thinking legacies. Kansas was the first to establish an endowment in an effort to ensure uninterrupted support for children’s funding over time as tobacco settlement dollars declined.”
On Tuesday, an efficiency consulting firm hired by the Legislature reported the CIF had helped the state avoid future costs in special education and other areas. The firm said Kansas had achieved an 11 percent return on investment in these initiatives.
“The governor’s recommendation is not about increasing efficiency or accountability,” Cotsoradis said. “It’s about giving him authority to make kids pay for his own fiscal mismanagement.”
Randy Watson, commissioner of the Kansas State Department of Education, offered a contrasting perspective. He said the maneuver would place the education department in charge of the state’s pre-kindergarten programs. He said Republican and Democratic governors had proposed such a reform in the past.
“I just wanted to say congratulations, really to the state board,” he said.”Now, the coordination of those things can happen under your guidance, to really help pre-K readiness be a reality. This is not political in any way.”
Sullivan also said the governor proposed placement of an income limit to participation in the Parents as Teachers program. Families that qualify for Parents as Teachers would be served with surplus federal dollars in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families account. Families with an income above the limit would pay for services.
“This is a valuable program,” Sullivan said. “There is a question here whether people like me that can afford it should pay for it or not.”
Brownback delivered the State of the State speech on Tuesday, but didn’t address how he would recommend the Legislature respond to a deficit in the next fiscal year projected to range from $175 million to $190 million. The state has struggled with revenue shortfalls since adoption of 2012 and 2013 business and individual income tax cuts.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri indicated the governor’s call in the State of the State speech to block Medicaid funding to the organization would likely result in a lawsuit on behalf of the health center.
“We refuse to serve as the governor’s scapegoat while Kansas faces serious funding challenges,” said Laura McQuade, president and chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood chapter. “His plans to cut Medicaid to PPKM will result in a legal battle which Kansas simply cannot afford to fight.”
She said the state’s 400,000 low-income recipients of Medicaid ought to be free to choose Planned Parenthood for health services that include cancer screenings, wellness care and contraception. The organization receives about $60,000 annually from Medicaid.
Brownback said in his speech that allegations Planned Parenthood affiliates had sold body parts from aborted fetuses drove him to complete the state’s defunding of an organization that provides abortion services.