THE STATE BUDGET IS MORE THAN DOLLARS AND CENTS. The state budget reflects the values of Kansas voters and the lawmakers elected to represent them.
The important decisions to spend taxpayer dollars across many programs and services vital to children, families, and communities matter because the budget determines our state’s quality of life, including economic security, education, health care, and much more.
Kansans deserve a budget that invests in everyone, regardless of race, income, zip code, identity, or ability.
This can only be achieved by creating a stable revenue stream through a fair tax system, elevating policies that recognize and correct systemic disparities and barriers faced by marginalized groups, and by understanding the impact budget decisions will have now and in the future.
KAC works to demystify budget issues and the process so more Kansans can engage in this area. Our goal is to increase transparency and participation in the discussions happening within communities and at the Capitol to advance policies that work to ensure that families and children have the resources they need to grow up healthy and successful.
The Kansas Budget Is Healthy, Thanks to Key Investments and Fiscal Responsibility
After several years of financial challenges, the Kansas budget looks healthy starting Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. The state ended FY 2022 with a surplus, and another is projected for the current year. Among other notable investments:
- K-12 education is now fully funded after meeting scale-up requirements the past four years
- Medical services for pregnant women and newborns have been extended to provide better support and outcomes for babies and their families
- The new mental health support hotline is funded and operational to provide timely and comprehensive care
- State employee pay has received a long overdue increase
- More resources than ever have been set aside to support affordable housing development across the state
Additionally, significant federal aid and strong state revenues (which have exceeded estimates since August 2020) have enabled the state to make important structural changes to protect against future economic downturns and make funding available for other programs. Since FY 2022, the state rainy day fund has grown from nothing to just under $1 billion, hundreds of millions of dollars in debt have been paid off early to avoid accruing interest, and payments to the state employees' retirement system are caught up.
Early Childhood Issues
The Children’s Initiatives Fund (CIF), administered by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, is one of the largest and the only dedicated sources of funding for children and families programming in Kansas. In FY 2023, the CIF is supporting 11 evidence-based and data-driven programs with a focus on early childhood care and education, health screening, home visiting, and parent education.
The CIF relies on money the state receives from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement ($52.4 million in FY 2023) and some federal funds, but no additional support from the State General Fund. CIF dollars are also used as the match needed to draw down additional federal funding for several programs serving Kansas children and families.
Building a state where all children and families have the resources they need to thrive requires constant and careful management of the budget. To create a solid budget policy Kansas lawmakers must:
- Design a state tax system that reliably and adequately funds the budget without disproportionately impacting low- and middle-income households
- Protect rainy day funds for emergency uses to avoid budget cuts to essential programs and services during economic recessions
- Ensure the state meets matching and maintenance of effort requirements to draw down all possible federal funds
- Capitalize on federal incentives to expand Medicaid to improve the health and economic security of thousands of Kansas families and communities
- Better invest in early childhood programs by supplementing the Children’s Initiatives Fund with State General Fund dollars
- Mobilize state, federal, local, and private investments to support critical needs in vital services like health, education, and child care
- Improve transparency and impact analysis on budget and tax expenditures to ensure that tax dollars are best used in ways that benefit all Kansans, and lift up the most vulnerable