Busy Brownback Agenda Running Into Problems in Kansas

 
An ambitious set of proposals from Republican Governor Sam Brownback is encountering trouble in the Kansas legislature, with Democrats and Republicans alike expressing doubts about whether some of the governor's key priorities will become law this year.

The Journal-World
of Lawrence, Kansas, reports that Brownback's efforts to cap state spending, sharply reduce income taxes and overhaul the K-12 school financing formula all are meeting opposition as the legislative session ramps up. "The governor's legislative agenda is basically in the emergency room right now," Paul Davis, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, tells the paper.

As Stateline noted in January, Brownback is pushing what may be the most sweeping set of proposals of any governor in the nation this year. Besides capping any increase in state spending at 2 percent a year, slashing personal income taxes and restructuring the school finance system, the first-term Republican also wants to convert Medicaid into a managed-care plan and shift worker pensions from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution model. Many observers in Topeka considered it unlikely that all of Brownback's priorities would become law this year, but the question increasingly seems to be whether any of them will , at least in the form that Brownback has proposed.

The Republican leader of the state Senate, Steve Morris, has been cold to the idea of a 2 percent spending cap, comparing it to a widely criticized spending cap in Colorado and arguing that "it makes for a permanent budget crisis every year because everything else will be cut." On taxes, Brownback's initial plan has already been modified by members of his own party in the state House. And the governor's school finance changes also have been controversial, particularly in the Senate.

"The Senate Education Committee had hearings on the governor's school finance bill three days this week, and if you look at the number of conferees testifying in favor compared to the number testifying in opposition, the governor's bill is in trouble," a Senate leader tells the Journal-World.
 
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