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TheChat: More tough news when it comes to Kansas’ woebegone budget

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▪ “The decision also acknowledges that the self-imposed fiscal dilemma now facing the state is not an excuse for the governor and the Legislature to avoid their constitutional obligation.” — Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, reacting to a court ruling Tuesday that said Kansas isn’t spending enough money on its schools.

Hensley pointed out that lawmakers opted to cut taxes rather than spend it on schools. That’s what he means when he says “self-imposed fiscal dilemma.” While the court didn’t set a solid number for how much more needs to be spent, it made itself clear that the state is likely hundreds of millions short of where it needs to be. The state is still waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling on the same topic. Bottom line: Lawmakers in Topeka, who already are facing hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts, could be facing hundreds of millions more. Look for the mass mainlining of lots of Alka Seltzer on this final day of 2014.

▪ “I am still digesting the full implication of the district court’s 116-page ruling.” — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback reacting to the ruling.

The governor basically took a pass on a substanitive response. Expect to hear more from him in the days to come. He’s got a lot to think about.

▪ “We’re going to have to bring in more than we spend and build up a rainy-day fund.” — Kansas state Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican and member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, explaining why Kansas’ budget outlook is bleaker than many think.

Denning says lawmakers have to do more than close a $279 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year and another $436 million for the next fiscal year beginning in July. That’s because those figures are based on the notion that the state will have no cash reserves going forward. Credit markets won’t tolerate that, Denning said. That means the state will have to establish a reserve fund again, adding to the totals that need to be cut.

▪ “If I knew today what they were about, I wouldn’t go.” — Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the House Republican majority whip who acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering of white-supremacist leaders in 2002 when he served as a state representative.

Scalise said he had only one staff member in those days and didn’t screen speaking invitations closely. He said he just basically went and spoke to any group that invited him. Still, Democrats were raising questions about whether Scalise was fit to serve in House leadership, and Scalise scrambled madly Tuesday to keep his leadership post. On Tuesday afternoon, Speaker John Boehner issued a statement supporting Scalise, which might save him.

▪ “Representative Grimm made the honorable decision to step down from his seat in Congress.” — Boehner on Tuesday on the decision of New York GOP Rep. Michael Grimm to resign from Congress.

Last week, Grimm pleaded guilty to a felony tax charge. He admitted that he could not be “100 percent effective” in the next Congress with the conviction hanging over him.

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