Stephen Koranda

Stephen is the statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

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Government
1:41 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Brownback KPERS Plan Increases Long-Term Costs

Credit Stephen Koranda

Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to fill a budget hole includes reducing payments to the state’s retirement plan in the short term.

A deficit in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is currently projected to be eliminated in 2033.

Brownback’s proposal would extend that by 10 years. Alan Conroy, the head of KPERS, says it’s similar to extending the mortgage on a home.

“You can lower your payments now, but if you add 10 years of payments you’re going to pay more for those 10 years.” says Conroy.

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Transportation
1:36 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

KDOT Secretary Asks Lawmakers To Keep Sales Tax Road Funding Intact

KDOT Secretary Mike King
Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Mike King is asking lawmakers not to touch one of KDOT’s funding sources.

Lawmakers will be looking for ways to fill a budget gap, and the money could be attractive. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, four-tenths of a percent of the state sales tax goes to KDOT for road projects.

Secretary King says the sales tax funding is a steady source of income, which is important when they’re borrowing money.

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Government
12:44 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Kansas Lawmakers to Begin Work on Brownback's Budget Plan

Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas lawmakers are just beginning the job of reviewing and modifying Governor Sam Brownback’s tax and budget plan.

The governor’s proposal slows scheduled income tax cuts and reduces spending to help fill a budget shortfall.

Republican state Senator Ty Masterson chairs that chamber’s budget committee. He says after revenue collections came up short of predictions, it’s prudent to adjust the tax cuts.

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Government
1:09 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

2015 KS State of the State Speech Touches on Taxes, School Funding

Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has laid out some details of his legislative priorities in the 2015 State of the State address.

Brownback touched on the state’s tax policy and education funding system during the speech, but gave few details about how he’ll propose filling a budget gap. Stephen Koranda reports....

Brownback started by touting what he says are his accomplishments. He pointed to job growth seen in the state in recent years.

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Economy
12:00 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Lower Gas Prices Mean Lower Kansas Tax Collections

Credit Photo courtesy of the Kansas Geological Survey

The recent drop in oil prices is translating into fewer tax dollars collected by the state of Kansas.

State lawmakers are already facing budget deficits reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stephen Koranda reports on the "severance tax" that oil producers pay based on the price of crude oil.

When economists met in November to create a new revenue estimate for Kansas, they used a crude oil price of $80 per barrel.

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Government
12:38 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Brownback Inaugural Remarks Focus On Families, Culture, Morality

Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has officially started his second term in office.

He highlighted what he calls a "crisis of the family" during his inauguration speech.

Stephen Koranda reports...

Brownback mentioned what he called “economic problems” in Kansas, but said the solutions are cultural and moral. He says issues of character and morality are connected to other challenges facing Kansas.

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Education
11:31 am
Mon January 5, 2015

KS Court Ruling Could Bolster Effort to Revamp School Funding

The Kansas Senate Chamber.
Credit Stephen Koranda

Governor Sam Brownback and some legislators have been saying Kansas should rewrite the funding formula used to distribute state tax dollars to K-12 schools.

A court ruled last week that the state is underfunding Kansas schools.

As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, that decision may add more energy to the call to rewrite the school finance formula.

In a previous ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s finance system should be judged by determining if the spending levels achieve certain student outcomes.

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Environment
12:20 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Annual Groundwater Survey Starts in Central, Western KS

Workers with the Kansas Geological Survey are hitting the road this month to check groundwater levels in central and western Kansas.

Rex Buchanan, with the KGS, says lessening drought conditions may lead to less aquifer depletion then they’ve seen in recent years. He says irrigation is one of the main uses of water from the aquifer.

“The more it rains, the less you have to irrigate. The less it rains, the more you have to irrigate. In dry years, because there’s less water available naturally, people irrigate more,” says Buchanan

Education
2:09 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Shawnee County District Court: Kansas' School Funding Is Inadequate

Santa Fe Trail School District Superintendent Steve Pegram
Credit Stephen Koranda

A three-judge panel in Shawnee County says state spending on public schools in Kansas is unconstitutionally low. The judges call the current funding level “inadequate from any rational perspective.”

Santa Fe Trail School District is one of the districts involved in the lawsuit. Superintendent Steve Pegram says he’s not surprised by the ruling, but he expects the state to appeal the decision.

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Government
1:55 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Incoming Kansas House Democratic Leader Talks 2015 Session

Incoming House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs
Credit Stephen Koranda

Kansas is facing a budget deficit next fiscal year.

Lawmakers will start working soon on a way to balance the state budget.

Governor Sam Brownback has already proposed spending cuts for the current fiscal year. It involves diverting from the state highway fund and the public pension plan, known as KPERS.

When the 2015 session begins, Kansas City Democrat Tom Burroughs will become the House Minority Leader.

Burroughs replaces outgoing minority leader Paul Davis, who stepped down to run for governor.

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