The first half of the 2015 Legislative Session ended Thursday April 2nd after a long week of conference committees and work on bills that stretched into several long evenings. The major accomplishment in the last week before First Adjournment was work on the budget, which is much closer to completion. The session resumes April 29th with the Veto Session, which could last beyond the 90 day threshold.
Consensus Revenue Estimates
This past Monday marked an important milestone for the 2015 legislative session with the release of consensus revenue estimates for Fiscal Years 2015, 2016, and 2017. The Consensus Estimating Group’s report revises prior estimates and represents the last such estimate of the session. Final budget and revenue decisions will therefore, be based on this report.
For FY 16, tax receipts are now projected to be $98.2m below previous estimates. Practically, the revised estimates will require the legislature to find an additional $100m in new revenue or budget cuts. You will likely recall, original estimates placed the total budget shortfall for FY16 at $600m. Adoption of the new K-12 education block grant produced $300m in savings for FY16. With the revised estimates this brings the total shortfall for FY16 to $342m. This hole must be filled either through the raising of additional revenue or through additional budget cuts.
Prior to First Adjournment, the Senate approved a $15.5 billion budget for FY 2016 that does not balance without an increase in revenue. The House has yet to take up the issue as a body since the Senate passed their budget in a House Bill following a “gut and go”, setting up the option for the House to simply vote it up or down without the opportunity to offer amendments. The final week prior to adjournment, the conference committee on the budget met several times and finally came to a tentative agreement leaving open the possibility for changes during the upcoming Veto Session. For higher education, the tentative agreement would leave base funding flat while imposing a two-year tuition freeze. We’ve engaged legislative leaders and local legislators to convey our concerns over the impact the tuition freeze would have on our campus.
What to Expect in the Upcoming Veto Session
Legislators will begin returning to Topeka next week in anticipation of the Veto Session, which formally begins next Wednesday April 29th. A handful of bills remain in committee but the most significant remaining issues are passing a budget and corresponding tax plan. While May 14th will mark the 90th day of the legislative session, many believe the legislature may need to work past this statutory marker in order to complete their work on taxes and the budget.