Some of the youngest and poorest children in Kansas, including many in Wyandotte County, would be adversely affected by the governor’s new budget cuts announced Monday, according to Kansas Action for Children.
The organization stated in a news release today that access to high-quality early education opportunities for Kansas children hangs in the balance as Gov. Sam Brownback proposed a second amendment to his budget that would transfer $9.5 million from the Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund to the state general fund.
“The proposed budget amendment represents a complete about-face on the part of the governor,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, in the news release. “The governor’s amendment side steps the law and will ultimately hurt our youngest and some of our poorest Kansas children. If the governor wants to achieve his goals of improving literacy and reducing childhood poverty, now isn’t the time to divert money from the KEY Fund, which supports programs designed to do both.”
Each year, money is transferred from the KEY Fund to the Children’s Initiatives Fund to support high-quality early childhood programs like Parents as Teachers and Early Head Start. This year, Kansas received $68 million in tobacco payments but had budgeted $55.8 million for the CIF.
“The remaining $12.2 million should be deposited in the KEY Fund and should remain there, not be swept into the state general fund,” Cotsoradis said. “Tax cuts shouldn’t come at the expense of access to high-quality early education opportunities for Kansas children.”
Since the establishment of the KEY Fund in 1999, more than $146 million has been diverted to the state general fund, KAC stated.
The tax plan signed by the governor last year is expected to cost $4.5 billion by fiscal year 2018, according to Kansas Action for Children. In addition, the governor has proposed another $1.8 billion in income tax cuts in the next five years.
In a news release April 29, the governor stated that these new amendments for three fiscal years would cut about $102 million from the state budget.
“The budget adjustments recommended in this GBA (Governor’s Budget Amendment) reflect new issues that have arisen or changes based on new information, such as the KanCare dividend,” Gov. Brownback said in the news release. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to craft tax and budget plans that support a balanced budget that funds our state’s core responsibilities, provides the state a strong ending balance and continues our state on the glide path to a zero state income tax.”
The governor’s second GBA includes recommendations to increase the state’s investment for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility being built in Manhattan, Kan.; increased funding to reduce the state’s waiting lists for home and community-based services and funding for startup costs for the Midwest Stem Cell Center.
In the news release, Gov. Brownback also renewed his call for the Legislature to support his proposed budget for the state’s universities, community colleges and technical schools – including the funding of the University of Kansas Medical Center’s expansion to train additional doctors and nurses.
“Higher education is a core responsibility of the state. My proposed budget holds our Regents schools harmless and includes targeted funding important to our state’s economic growth. I have challenged education leaders to focus their schools on improving student results. It is important we keep state funding level for our universities, community colleges and technical schools,” Brownback said in the news release.
Christie Appelhanz of the Kansas Action for Children office said thousands of young children would be affected by the budget cuts. In the northeast Kansas region, consisting of 11 counties including Wyandotte, there are 3,301 children who benefit from child care assistance; 1,823 children who benefit from Healthy Start home visitors program; and 6,195 children who had newborn screenings as a result of the Children’s Initiative Fund.
The governor’s second amendment is expected to go before the Legislature next week.
“We hope that the members of the Wyandotte County delegation will speak out against this budget amendment. It’s an opportunity for them to take a stand for the children in Wyandotte County by opposing this budget amendment,” Appelhanz said. “We believe tax cuts shouldn’t come at the expense to access for high-quality care for Kansas kids.”