Gov. Sam Brownback introduced his budget to kick off the 2017 legislative session, and while his plan didn’t gain much support, it did show what a mess the state’s finances are in.

The state faces a nearly $350 million revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and a nearly $600 million shortfall in the next fiscal year.

Revenue collections aren’t expected to improve much in subsequent years because forecasts call for a continued weak state economy that will trail the rest of the nation.

Brownback’s plan to balance the budget relies on tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol, selling off a long-term investment fund and the tobacco settlement, sweeping highway funds, cutting school funds based on unproven savings, delays in K-12 payments, undoing years of progress in shoring up the state pension system, including the non-payment of an earlier delayed payment and other stopgap measures.

Specifically on public school spending, Brownback has called for reductions in state funding in the next two fiscal years based on two recommended proposals from last year’s Alvarez & Marsal efficiency report.

A&M recommended consolidating all K-12 health insurance plans and requiring school districts join the Kansas Department of Administration to collaboratively source select on a statewide basis various categories, including fuel, food, maintenance and information technology. A report from the Legislative Division of Post Audit will be released in February on the issue of consolidating K-12 health insurance plans.

Brownback said his efficiency recommendations should be part of any new school finance formula that the Legislature approves.

In addition, Brownback says in his budget recommendation that he “would like to work with the Legislature and school districts to explore ways in which school districts can help share some of the retirement costs of for their employees.

The various legislative education committees held meetings this week to review school funding and the Gannon litigation which is pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.

The reconfigured House K-12 Education Budget Committee, chaired by state Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, will take the lead in the House on putting together a new school funding plan to replace the block grant system.

Yesterday, our organization released its school finance recommendation.  KASB released its proposal earlier in the week. Next week, the various budget and tax committees will dive into the details of the state budget and start work on a spending plan.

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