Stephen Koranda

Contributing Reporter

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

Advocacy groups gathered at the Kansas Statehouse today and asked lawmakers to reverse tax cuts passed in recent years.

The organizations include unions, the Kansas Contractors Association and a group that advocates for children. Annie McKay, with the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, is a frequent critic of the governor’s tax policies. She says the state can’t cut its way out of the budget shortfall.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A panel of Kansas lawmakers has voted not to audit a state agency to see if there’s discrimination against same-sex couples. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, an audit would have looked for discrimination when it comes to foster care and adoption.

In a letter to the committee, the head of the Kansas Department for Children and Families said the agency doesn’t discriminate against same-sex couples. That was enough for Republican Sen. Jeff Longbine to suggest they hold off on an audit.

Andy Marso

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is withdrawing the state from the federal refugee relocation program. Brownback announced Tuesday that he has notified President Barack Obama's administration that due to safety concerns, Kansas will no longer participate in the refugee resettlement program.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas lawmakers will return to the Statehouse this week and they'll be looking for ways to erase a budget deficit. Part of that discussion could focus on business taxes. As KPR's Stephen Koranda reports, some legislators say it's time to reconsider a tax policy that lets thousands of business owners pay no state income tax.

Republican Sen. Jim Denning is one of the Kansas lawmakers saying the business tax exemption needs to be rolled back or modified. Denning says he’s tired of budget solutions he sees as one-time fixes.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Leaders in the Kansas Statehouse are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s session, which went into overtime by more than 20 days.

This week, legislators began reviewing Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposals to erase a budget shortfall. Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman says they’re trying to familiarize themselves with the issues before the session resumes.

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / KPR

Governor Brownback’s office pitched three budget-balancing options to Kansas lawmakers this week, but it doesn’t look like legislative leaders are planning to rubber stamp any of the proposals. 

The chair of the Senate’s budget-writing committee, Republican Ty Masterson, says he doesn’t believe any of the three will be approved by lawmakers.

“These are just three options the governor produced. We’re going to look at them, evaluate them. I’m sure none of the three will come out exactly as he’s intended them. Could be a combination of the three,” Masterson says.

Dave Ranney, Heartland Health Monitor

The head of a Kansas advocacy group opposes a plan to sell off part of a tobacco lawsuit settlement. The annual payments from the settlement fund children’s programs.

The proposal from Gov. Sam Brownback would sell off part of the payments in exchange for immediate cash to help the state fix a budget shortfall. Shannon Cotsoradis, with the group Kansas Action for Children, calls it a short-term solution.

Stephen Koranda, File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Estimates for Kansas tax collections were ratcheted down sharply yesterday. The state’s projected revenues dropped by a quarter-billion dollars over the next year-and-a-half. That leaves Kansas with a budget deficit. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing plans for erasing the shortfall.

Kansas lawmakers could continue work on a so-called step therapy plan when they return to the Statehouse for the veto session. It would require Medicaid patients to try cheaper, proven drugs before trying more expensive options.

Democratic Rep. Jim Ward isn’t sure the plan would actually save the $10 million supporters estimate. He fears it may hurt patient care and would like more protections added to the bill.

http://www.kdads.ks.gov

Workers from the Larned State Hospital say staffing shortages have created difficult and unsafe working conditions at the mental facility. Two employees told a legislative committee yesterday about the challenges they face.

Kyle Nuckolls says staff often work 12- to 16-hour shifts multiple days in a row at the western Kansas facility and they can’t take time off for family emergencies or illness. He says the long shifts lead to worker mistakes and other challenges.

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