By Martin Hawver
Gov. Laura Kelly last week probably gave the Kansas Legislature -- which will meet for a one-day wrap-up session Thursday -- the best news it’s gotten so far this session.
She told them that she’s not going to push for changes in spending to speed through the Legislature in one day for the upcoming fiscal year which starts July 1.
Kelly says she’s confident that there’s going to be another recovery bill passed by Congress, though she and the rest of the nation’s governors aren’t certain just how it is going to impact their states and their budgets…and their citizens.
COVID-19 has already cost the state and cities and counties millions of dollars, and we’re still trying to figure how much of that lost revenue will be paid for or at least pared by federal assistance…or whether those costs wind up being paid for by Kansans’ tax dollars.
There’s overtime for first responders, there is testing and hospitalization of the poor who don’t have their own or their employers’ health insurance to cover them, plus a wide range of other costs. There’s also the effect on revenues. Less sales tax, less individual income tax and Kansans stretching to pay their property taxes.
Lots of costs: Just where they are going to fall isn’t clear yet. And six or seven months of monitoring of revenues and needs probably will give Kelly and the Legislature enough time to see just what needs to be fixed, what is essential spending, what is not so essential and what can be reassessed in January to reassemble the budget halfway through Fiscal Year 2021.
It’s a little like waiting to see whether the tornado veers away from your house. You don’t know until it happens. We’re all cowering in the basement, and by this fall leaders should have a better idea of just what’s it going to look like when they leave the basement to see what damage the tornado has caused…and start arranging for repairs.
Many lawmakers aren’t likely to ignore that it was Kelly who essentially sent Kansas to the basement with executive orders that closed thousands of nonessential businesses, restricted travel, caused layoffs, closed in-person attendance at schools…oh, and shut down bars and restaurants.
But then, most legislators who are talking about their concerns for the health and safety of Kansans -- that probably were enhanced by the governor’s shut-down and stay-home executive orders -- are ready for things to open up, for their neighbors to go back to work earning a living, eating in restaurants and paying taxes.
Oh, there’ll be bills this Thursday at the one-day session, and attempts to restrict, or at least let lawmakers regulate just what Kelly can do through executive orders through the remainder of the year, but at least those will come down to mostly fights in the basement about who gets the best spot to cower.
The best news is that besides some of those issues related to the pandemic are fairly technical, and not blazingly political. Look for a delay in when you have to pay your second-half property taxes if you haven’t already sent in the check. That’ll help some Kansans who have been put on furlough or who are living on unemployment benefits.
Oh, and there will be some consideration of the amazingly complicated determination of just what responsibility owners of stores and restaurants and such – and their insurance companies -- have for customers or employees who wind up with coronavirus that they may or may not have picked up at the business.
Best part of the session is that there’s no new budget activity when the state really doesn’t know what it needs to spend and on what as a result of the pandemic.
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com