Weathering the Storm in Kansas

While the climate surrounding children’s issues has been particularly difficult in Kansas, there were three key victories in the Sunflower State in 2015 for young kids and their families.

A contentious budget debate driven by a nearly $800 million shortfall forced Kansas Action for Children to focus more on protecting Kansas kids from bad policies than enacting good ones, but we still celebrated a few noteworthy victories:

  • Although we’re disheartened to report the Kansas Endowment for Youth (KEY) Fund nears depletion in 2017, we were greatly encouraged by the unanimous passage of a proviso to protect funding for children’s programs. Should payment from the tobacco settlement (the primary funding source for the KEY Fund) be less than expected, the state will backfill those dollars from the State General Fund. This was the only special fund to receive this type of protection.
  • Early in the session, a legislative committee attempted to eliminate all funding from the Children’s Initiatives Fund for Kansas Parents as Teachers – more than $7 million each year. The decision was made without warning or a legislative hearing, but we quickly alerted partners and activated families across the state to oppose the effort. The committee reversed their decision after strong and swift pushback. Funding for Kansas Parents as Teachers was fully maintained. It was a significant victory in such a tight fiscal environment.
  • Many of the state’s tax credits and exemptions were significantly reduced or eliminated in the final revenue package, but the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit survived the 2015 session fully intact. The state EITC has been a prime target of both the Governor and several high-ranking lawmakers for the last four years. Its full preservation amid the largest tax hike in Kansas history was a huge win for Kansas families. In 2013, 282,361 Kansas children benefitted from this tax credit, including many young children.

Looking ahead, it’s more than likely programs and services for young Kansas children and their families will continue to stand on shaky ground. The state’s budget outlook is expected to remain gloomy, which means that increasing investments in programs serving the youngest Kansans doesn’t seem possible in the immediate future.

However, for the first time this year, both the Governor and a growing number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle acknowledged further budget cuts will not serve Kansas families well. That’s why so much time in 2015 was devoted to finding new revenue rather than further reductions in spending. This is a major breakthrough in a debate that has—up to this point—been cemented in political ideology rather than sound policy.

No matter how long it takes to get Kansas back on a more stable path, tough times do not weaken our resolve. We are more committed than ever to weathering this storm and doing all we can to ensure Kansas families and children can attain the health, education, and economic security they deserve.

-Shannon Cotsoradis
President and CEO
Kansas Action for Children & Voices for Children Foundation
(July 30, 2015)