Kansas State of the State Address 2000

 

TOPEKA, Kansas - Jan. 11 - Following is the full text of Gov. Bill Graves' 2000 State of the State Address:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Madama Chief Justice, Members of the Legislature and fellow Kansans:

While we entered the year 2000 amid greater than usual celebration, I suspect for most Kansans it was a new year similar to most others, and the opportunities and challenges in their lives for 2000 are similar to those of 1999. A single event does not define people, their beliefs or aspirations. The same holds true for public service. Our hopes and aspirations for a better Kansas are not defined by a single 90-day legislative session. In a "what have you done for me lately" environment we often fail to provide a sense of perspective. We must blend yesterday, today, and tomorrow to have a fair and accurate assessment of our commitment to this state and its people.

I would like to reflect for a few minutes on the collective achievements of the legislature and this administrationnot merely to provide a snapshot of today, but to paint a picture of the significant and positive impact our collective efforts have had and will continue to have on Kansas. The successes are many, let me highlight a few.

Investments in the State's Infrastructure

Together we've made critical investments in badly neglected infrastructure. We've successfully rebuilt our state parks, repaired and renovated classrooms at our state universities, increased prison capacity and enhanced our transportation system to allow our economy to continue to grow and our citizens to travel safely. We've invested in our state capitol to preserve our heritage and the capitol complex to provide greater access to state government for Kansans. It would have been easy to delay these long-term needs to satisfy short-term demands until a time of crisis. Our vision will be appreciated by a generation of Kansans.

K-12 Education

Together, we have enhanced K-12 education financing. Highlights of our efforts include nearly doubling the funding to educate at-risk children, increasing state support for each pupil and for special education, and providing $10 million in special grants for technology. Despite declining local effort from property taxes, policies enacted by the state have allowed education spending to increase at an average rate of 4.4 percent over the last five years.

Higher Education

Together, we have improved our system of higher education. We have raised admission standards, requiring students entering our universities to demonstrate a strong commitment to learn. We boldly changed the governance of higher educationa change I believe will achieve more than even its strongest proponents envisioned. We also made a substantial investmentincreasing state spending for our public universities the past four years by $75 million, double the rate of inflation.

Services in Communities and Homes

To listen to some, one might think we've failed to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. That is simply not true. Our record shows a clear and significant commitment to Kansans most in need of care. The last five years have seen an unprecedented transformation in how we deliver these services. This has been achieved with a dramatic shift from state institutions to community and in-home care. While it has enhanced our citizens' quality of life, at the same time, it has dramatically increased our financial obligation. Between FY 1997 and FY 2000, our spending for physically disabled Kansans has grown almost 300 percentan increase of $38 million. Our frail elderly program expenditures have been enhanced more than 240 percentan increase of $33 million. We have closed two state hospitals and shifted all the money saved to community funding. In addition, since the closing, we added $83 million to the mental health and developmental disability systemsan increase of 24 percent.

Public Safety

Together over the past five years, we have taken significant steps to make our state a safer place to live and raise a family. We increased penalties for violent crimes, sex offenses and violation of drug laws. Additionally, we increased the minimum amount of sentence a criminal must serve from 80 percent to 85 percent. These changes have had an impact: crime is down because criminals are behind bars.

These benefits are not without costs. The state had almost 7,500 inmates in state prisons on June 30, 1996. By last June, this number increased to nearly 8,500. Correspondingly, the state cost to run the correction system increased from $168 million in FY 1996 to $200 million in FY 2000an increase of 19 percent.

Water Quality

Together, we have taken action to improve the environment and make our water safer by providing loans for critical water system upgrades and financial incentives for producers to voluntarily restore stream banks as part of the Governor's Water Quality Initiative. We have committed additional resources to plug abandoned oil and gas wells and to remediate contaminated oil and gas well sites. We have directed Kansas State University to research confined animal feeding operations to better ensure groundwater protection. From human services to highways, from education to the environment, we have made progress for the people of Kansas. Government cannot make perfect the imperfections of society, but we can improve and enhance the quality of life for Kansans, and we have.

Tax Reductions

What is even more remarkable is, while these new directions in public policy and new investments in the future of Kansas were occurring, together we returned record-setting dollars to the people of Kansas through historic tax reductions.

Today, some say we did too much. I cannot agree. Ask the family of fourwho in 1998 made $18,000 and owed $175 in income taxes to the state of Kansasif taxes were cut too much; because in 1999 they had no tax liability, and in fact were owed $240.

Ask the car taxpayer in Jackson County if we did too much. The tax on a $15,000 car in that county in 1995 was $465. The tax for this year on a car with the same value will be $207. This is a reduction of 55.4 percenta pattern replicated in all 105 counties.

Ask the single parent working to support a family if the $39 million we returned to single Kansans by eliminating the unfair income tax was the wrong thing to do.

While these examples tell personal stories, overall numbers tell the entire story. We cut the uniform mill levy by more than a third, saving Kansans $320 million each year. Before we enhanced the food sales tax rebate program, only $2 million went to our low-income citizens. In 1999 they received rebates of over $22 million. Two years ago in my state of the state address, I asked you to enact an earned income tax credit so the working poor could keep more of their hard-earned dollars. Thanks to our action, they now keep an additional $20 million.

Because of our tax cuts, low-income Kansans, businessmen and women, homeowners, farmers and ranchers have more of their money to invest in their futures. We should be proud of that.

When we see our process and its efforts in a broader perspective, I believe collectively we can take satisfaction in the new directions taken in supporting those programs most critical to our future, while providing vital tax relief to our citizens.

Looking Ahead to Kansas' Future

Tonight we focus on the next 90 days, weighing our responsibilities, as well as our opportunities. As you are all aware, this budget is the most challenging of the past five years. That does not mean, however, we cannot provide effective, efficient and vital services and programs to the people of Kansas. Most Kansans have faced years in which unexpected declines in income or increased expenses made them budget more carefully. That is what we face, and like the people of this state, we can and will adjust and ensure that what needs to be done will be done.

The budget I present to you was built on five principles:

The first principle is we cannot spend money we do not have. Kansas families and businesses recognize this factand their government must recognize it as well. For example, I appreciate the legislative discussion on maintaining the $50 per pupil funding for education in the current year. Make no mistake: I share your passion for education, and I worked hard to reach this goal. However, because of the constraint of a 7.5 percent ending balance requirement and revenues currently below the consensus estimates, the needed $16 million was simply not available. I am eager to review any adjustments should you increase the current year budget to meet what I consider to be a mutual goal.

Second, tax increases are not acceptable substitutes for fiscal management. Third, there should be an ending balance of 7.5 percent as required by law. These should be our mutual goals. There are those who would take the easy way out by raiding the ending balance or reverse the progress we've made over the last five years by increasing taxes. I would strongly caution them not to do so. Let's use sound fiscal management, not emergency dollars or increased taxes, to meet our budget responsibilities.

We are not in difficult economic times. Our unemployment is at a 20-year record low, and job creation and income are at all-time highs. With the exception of our troubled agriculture economy, Kansas is very strong. We merely are in a period when we need to control our spending. If you use ending balances to increase spending and the state should enter into an economic downturn, you will leave critical programs unprotected. This is simply irresponsible fiscal policy and is unacceptable.

The fourth principle of my budget is to set priorities, not make simplistic, across-the-board budget decisions. We asked agencies to prioritize within their budgets. Then as the budget was prepared, we prioritized agencies and programs. The result is some areas absorb significant cuts, while others are held harmless, and some will grow. This budget reflects my strong commitment to K-12 education, higher education, and vital social services. In the context of a difficult budget year, these priorities are well supported.

The fifth principle of my budget reaffirms the commitment we make each year to the state's most precious resource: our children. The emphasis on children in this year's budget is underscored by the $63 million State General Fund growth and $117 million growth from all funding sources for children's programs.

In addition, last year's decision to dedicate 95 percent of expected proceeds from the tobacco settlement to new or enhanced programs improving the lives of children will serve us well for years to come. This year, over nine million new dollars will be invested in children's programs, in local community partnerships, in early education for at-risk children, and in increased support for parent education and statewide learning opportunities. The $70 million that will flow directly to the State General Fund from tobacco proceeds represents most of the new money that allowed significant enhancements in a wide array of programs benefiting children.

These five principles guided me in making the following budget decisions.

When the Legislature adjourned last April, we approved a budget from State General Funds that increased by 6.2 percent above FY 1999. Even with the changes I have recently recommended, the budget in the current year still grows by 4.6 percent. The budget for next year, FY 2001, will require fiscal restraint; and while it will not be at the spending rate of the past five years, there will be an increase in spending. This is far from a budget crisis; it only requires fiscal discipline. Even with our challenges, I believe the budget I present tonight will serve Kansans well. Because there are agencies willing to shoulder more than their share of the burden, we can increase our support for vital programs. I want to thank the men and women of those agencies and departments that will continue to provide outstanding service to the people of Kansas, even though they will have reduced resources.

Your state agencies are filled with very capable and talented people who will play a major role in helping us through a tight budget year, and I ask you to join me in saluting them. I particularly want to note the support of Secretary Dean Carlson and the Department of Transportation. Significant State General Funds were obtained because of KDOT's willingness to tighten its fiscal belt. We took as much as we could without retreating from our strong commitment to a new transportation plan. I am convinced KDOT has done its share, and I will notI repeatI will not support any action that will break our promise to Kansans of a new transportation plan. My recommendations will allow all projects in the plan to be completed.

Let me highlight a few elements of my budget proposal:

  • I am recommending a total budget from the State General Fund for education of $2.3 billion for FY 2001. This includes enhanced funding of $50 for each K-12 student. Even though our FY 2001 budget challenge is significant, we must continue doing our best to support public education.
  • I am recommending $22 million in enhanced funding for community colleges and regents institutions. This fulfills the FY 2001 commitment made last session that increased financial support would accompany governance restructuring for our higher education system.
  • I am recommending step movement and an unclassified merit increase of 2.5 percent for state employees. This commitment to our state workers will cost $37 million.
  • I am urging an increase in FY 2000 of $6 million and another increase of $6.6 million in FY 2001 for child care assistance targeted to those on welfare returning to the workforce.
  • I am asking for a $6.3 million increase in support of adoption services. We are doing a better job of providing permanent homes for children; we must do even more.
  • I ask for more than $600 million to cover the medical costs of Kansans who need assistancean increase of $33 million. $37.5 million provides health insurance for children so no Kansas child need go without good medical care. More than 15,000 Kansas children are already being served by this program, and it deserves to grow. Combined with Medicaid, we are now serving 32,000 children who previously were uninsured. I have provided over $9 million in additional funds to serve elderly Kansans in their homes and over $4 million in additional funds for physically disabled Kansans. I am lending my support to the efforts to allow schools and libraries access to the state information backbone for high-speed Internet, voice and video transmissions. This support includes my recommendation for $4.5 million from the children's initiatives fund for the first year one-time costs.
  • I am committing $3 million to begin a partnership effort with the Kansas Health Foundation and local communities. The foundation has committed to match state and local funds with $30 million over the next 10 years to build the capacity in communities to improve the health of children.
  • I am recommending maintaining ongoing funding of Johnson County and Sedgwick County adult residential corrections centers and an additional $77 million for new prison construction for both adult and juvenile offenders. These will house our most violent criminals.
  • I am directing $1 million of the Kansas Department of Revenue's budget be used for customer service upgrades, including a toll free number for Kansas taxpayers.

There are numerous increases and reallocations in my budget proposal that enhance support for priority programs, while at the same time provide adequate funding for agencies to carry out their essential responsibilities.

In addition to budget items, I will be presenting several new initiatives.

Ethics and Campaign Finance

The people of Kansas deserve government that avoids even the appearance of improper conduct. Beginning in 1995, through my executive order, executive branch employees under my direct control no longer accept gifts or hospitality from groups who influence government. I am recommending this ban be extended to all executive branch employees. I also recommend lobbyists be required to report whom they spend their money on. This is not a prohibition; it is simply disclosure and it's the right thing to do.

Campaign finance reform cannot be ignored. I am proposing statewide candidates for office during the final weeks before an election make daily reports on who is financing their campaigns. This will ensure voters know in a timely manner who's contributing to candidates.

Open Records

Perhaps nothing contributes more to accountable government than ensuring the business of governing occurs in full public view. Kansas has strong open record laws, but the mechanism to enforce these laws needs to be improved. The goals we need to achieve are clearan accessible and affordable independent review for disputes; teeth in the enforcement process; and a method to assure only the true costs are charged for providing records to citizens. Let's make sure government is open to the people of Kansas.

Highway Safety

Seat belts save lives. We need to allow law enforcement to enforce the law. Today, this does not occur unless there is another violation. Providing for primary enforcement of seat belt use will save lives and reduce injuries each year. Seat belt use went up between 8 and 17 percent in states with similar laws. We particularly need to protect our children when adults will not accept this responsibility. In Kansas, the law says you must wear a seat belt. It is time to fully enforce that law.

Rules and Regulation Review

In 1995, I directed a review of regulations. It was a success, as hundreds of out-dated, irrelevant and cumbersome rules and regulations were modified or eliminated. It is time to have a tough review again. By executive order, I will direct each agency to develop and implement a plan resulting in rules and regulations that are understandable, reasonable and necessary.

My budget and my initiatives clearly demonstrate even in times of fiscal challenges, we can offer Kansans new programs, strengthen existing vital programs and provide new public policy directions.

Conclusion

As you make your policy and budget decisions, I ask you to be particularly aware of two responsibilities.

First, build the budget on responsible projections, not hopes. Both this administration and the legislature are a significant part of the consensus estimating process. These estimates, not wishful thinking, must guide our budget decisions. The past few years our revenues have exceeded our estimates. At this time we have no basis on which to believe that will happen this year. The budget must be built on consensus estimates. I have done that. I urge you to do the same.

Second, there are public policy issues that must be fully debated regarding our Home and Community based services waivers. Using current trends, two years from now, I would need to recommend for these programs State General Fund spending of $217 millionan increase of almost $170 million since FY 1997. Spending from all funding sources would need to increase from $119 million to $544 millionan increase of over $400 million. We need to decide if we can afford these escalating costs, keeping in mind such increases will come at a cost to other crucial programs.

I know these will be difficult debates as we discuss want to have vs. need to have; comfortable vs. critical; state responsibility vs. community or family responsibility. These are not partisan issues; they are Kansas issues that must be addressed this session.

In closing, let me affirm we will fund all basic services at an adequate level and invest more in our priorities. We will continue our successful partnershipone in which each of us can take pride.

I am fully aware the process is a challenging one. Each of us has a passion for those things we believe in. We are diverse people with diverse views. To that is added a more challenging budget and the predictable political divisiveness that occurs each election year.

We are well served to heed the words of William Allen White in his 1936 address at Northwestern University. He urged those graduates, as I urge you, to remember the great strengths of our nationthe elements of tolerance, patience, and duty. Tolerance of other views and perspectives, a quality that will serve us all well in the coming days. Patience to let the process work, to engage in full debate, to calmly think our way through difficult moments. And finally, a duty to never forget our responsibility to serve the people of Kansas. Duty does not know party, race, or gender. Duty does not depend on rank or station. Duty is about doing what is right with integrity and compassion. It is about good policy, not good politics. It demands when the debate has ended and the decision has been made we can say to our fellow KansanI have done my duty.

It is my sincere hope at the end of the 2000 legislative session we all can look the citizens of Kansas squarely in the eye and tell them we upheld our oath; and in a spirit of tolerance with patience in the process, we did our duty.

 
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