Stephen Koranda

Stephen Koranda reports on the Kansas Legislature, state government and everything else for Kansas Public Radio. He previously worked in Mississippi and Iowa, where he covered stories ranging from hurricanes to state executions. 

Stephen Koranda

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration announced a series of financial moves last week to deal with a budget deficit. The plan takes money from the highway fund and other areas to cover the shortfall, but it leaves the state with a razor-thin savings account estimated at under $6 million.

Stephen Koranda

A panel of Kansas lawmakers has been reviewing school spending and student performance. Some test scores have been flat or have dropped in recent years.

Republican Rep. Jerry Lunn says, at the same time, total education funding has increased.

“Does it make sense to then say ‘Well, we just need more money'? Because I think that’s the narrative that’s going to come out of this is, ‘We just need to spend more money.’ It’s not how much you spend, it’s how you spend it,” Lunn says.

Sean Sandefur

A panel of state officials has approved more than $4 million in emergency aid for 25 Kansas school districts that requested the additional funding. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the money was mostly provided to districts with enrollment growth or falling property values.

Stephen Koranda

Kansas officials Friday lowered the state’s estimated tax collections by $160 million for the current year. That puts the state into a nearly $120 million budget deficit.

In response, Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, unveiled a series of spending adjustments to cover the shortfall. The plan takes $50 million from the state highway fund. It also relies on unexpected savings and money shifted away from the Kansas Bioscience Authority and other areas.

Michael B. / flickr Creative Commons

The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments today over the issue of equitable funding for the state's school districts.

Stephen McAllister, an attorney for the state, said lawmakers complied with earlier court rulings by increasing state funding to help reduce inequities. He says lawmakers tried to lock in the funding with a temporary block grant system while they write a new school funding plan.

Stephen Koranda

Kansas tax collections have been lagging behind expectations in recent months. A group of economists and state officials will meet today to update the revenue projections, which are used when lawmakers write the budget. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports on what could be amended.

Stephen Koranda

Lawmakers are studying Kansas tax credits and exemptions to see if they’re still worth keeping.

A special committee met Thursday to begin reviewing the state’s tax policy. Republican Sen. Ty Masterson says they may not name specific credits and exemptions to eliminate, but instead recommend a regular process to find ones that are no longer working.  

Stephen Koranda

Kansas is facing a shortage of corrections workers in state prisons. Everyone agrees it's a problem, but there isn’t agreement on how to pay for a solution. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, lawmakers discussed the issue during committee meetings this week.

File photo

The head of the Kansas Sentencing Commission says he’s worried state budget cuts could hurt a program that helps some drug offenders avoid jail time.

The program lets some Kansas drug offenders go through treatment and supervision, which helps them avoid prison. The $6.5 million pays for treatment for more than 1600 offenders a year. Scott Schultz, with the Kansas Sentencing Commission, is concerned it could be targeted for budget cuts.

“I think we all know that there’s a storm brewing on the horizon,” Schultz says.

Nick Ares, flickr Creative Commons

New numbers show Kansas revenues were $15 million short of estimates in October. So far this fiscal year, the state has brought in $57 million less than expected.

Kansas income tax collections beat the estimate significantly, but that was outweighed by drops in other areas like sales taxes. Republican Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan said in a statement that Kansas is following a national trend with these sluggish sales tax numbers.