November 12, 2015

$9 million sweep lowers funding for 20 children’s programs by approximately 6.5 percent

TOPEKA – Last week, Kansas’ irresponsible and unsustainable tax policies continued to wreak havoc on state programs, resulting in another round of mid-year budget cuts and transfers. The latest $123 million round of budget adjustments included a $9 million sweep from the Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF). Although Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director claimed the funds were excess and would not impact current grants to children’s programs, new analysis reveals the sweep will reduce grant awards already promised to 20 Kansas programs.

The latest $9 million CIF sweep lowers funding for existing Early Childhood Block Grant programs by approximately 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2016, and by approximately an additional three percent in fiscal year 2017.

Not only did the administration misrepresent the immediate impact of the CIF sweep, they maneuvered circumstances to create the appearance of excess funds.  In the months prior to last week’s CIF sweep, Brownback administration officials requested CIF grantees transition their grant cycle from calendar years to fiscal years. The change left the appearance of surplus funds, but the dollars had already been allocated. It now seems the calendar transition was organized by design – specifically for the purpose of sweeping extra funds later in the fiscal year. By changing the grant cycles after the Legislature passed the budget for 2016-17, CIF funds were  left temporarily unencumbered, and open to the Governor’s sweep.

“The Governor’s fancy accounting tricks don’t dull the impact of these sweeps on Kansas children and families,” said Kansas Action for Children President and CEO Shannon Cotsoradis. “These programs produce some of the most impressive early childhood outcomes in Kansas, and they are being sacrificed for a failing tax plan that has spiraled out of control.”

The funding source for CIF – the tobacco settlement payments that flow through the Kansas Endowment for Youth – further complicates the problem. The amount the state receives from the annual payment fluctuates. The state won’t receive the first estimate of this year’s payment until February, when half of the dollars have already been spent. The funds don’t arrive until April, at which point 75 percent of the funds are exhausted. The Kansas Endowment for Youth is completely bankrupt, leaving no safety net to protect children’s programs if tobacco settlement dollars come in lower than expected.

“These financial gimmicks are more irresponsible than payday lending,” said Cotsoradis. “The state is borrowing against something it doesn’t even know it has and, ultimately, children will pay the price. These cuts will reduce funding in twenty programs across Kansas. Unfortunately, this is probably only the beginning.”

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