by Jim McLean, KHI News Service
Topeka — Children’s advocates are crying foul over a last-minute budget deal that transfers $5 million from a fund used to pay for early childhood programs to an agency that invests state money in promising bioscience companies.
April Holman, policy director for the nonprofit advocacy organization Kansas Action for Children, said House and Senate budget negotiators gave no advance notice that the transfer was under consideration.
“They never talked about this until they came back for their very last meeting,” Holman said. “Rep. Sullentrop said they wanted to transfer the money to the bioscience authority, Sen. Masterson said ‘we agree’ and it was a done deal in 20 seconds.”
Rep. Gene Suellentrop and Sen. Ty Masterson are the chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees respectively. They are both Republicans.
The bill transfers the money from Kansas Endowment for Youth, or KEY fund, to the Kansas Bioscience Authority, increasing its budget from $27 million to $32 million.
“There were some concerns that the bioscience authority couldn’t fulfill its function if we cut them clear down to $27 million,” Masterson said.
The authority was created to make strategic investments in emerging Kansas bioscience companies and to assist in attracting new ones to the state. Money from the state’s settlement with the nation’s major tobacco companies is first deposited into the KEY fund. Portions of it are then allocated to the Children’s Initiatives Fund and used to support a variety of childhood development programs.
The transfer is included in a bill that finishes the Legislature’s work on a $14.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The Senate voted 22-18 early Friday afternoon to approve the budget bill. It was then approved by the House.
Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the budget writing committee, refused to sign the conference committee agreement because she said it didn’t address the state’s deteriorating revenue situation and because of the transfer.
“We’re taking money out of the mouths of babes,” Kelly said. “It is not like we’re over-budgeted in early childhood programs. There are lots of kids on waiting lists for services.”
The last-minute deal, Holman said, increases concerns that the tobacco settlement money is being purposefully underestimated so that Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders have some unallocated funds left at the end of the session that they can use to plug holes in the budget.
“It has become a pattern and it really makes us question whether that has been the goal all along,” she said.
Last year, lawmakers swept $9.5 million from the CIF into the state general fund to cover other expenses.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced on April 18 that state had received $62.2 million in tobacco settlement funds, $7 million more than his original estimate.
Kansas Action for Children filed a lawsuit in Shawnee District Court a year ago asking the court to order Schmidt to release copies of settlement records. The court recently denied a motion filed by Schmidt that likely would have led to the case being dismissed.
Money from the tobacco settlement flows to the KEY fund. Then money goes from there to the Children’s Initiatives Fund to support a variety of childhood development programs.
The endowment fund was created by the Legislature in 1999 with the goal that it would be invested to help sustain the children’s programs when budgets were tight or tobacco dollars fluctuated.
But that never happened, Cotsoradis said, in part because the state used more than $140 million from the tobacco settlement over the years to shore up general state coffers, including $9.5 million for this year’s budget.
“Essentially, the Kansas Endowment for Youth is broke,” Cotsoradis said. “The fund that was intended to ensure these programs are paid for in perpetuity has nothing in it.”
Lawmakers approved historic tax cuts in 2012 that are projected to leave the state treasury essentially empty by fiscal 2016.
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Polski Day celebration planned May 3
The 30th annual Polski Day celebration will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at All Saints Parish, 8th and Vermont Avenue, Kansas City, Kan., at the St. Joseph Church site. The festival features live music, dancing and ethnic food. A parade starts at 11 a.m. at 12th and Central, proceeding to 8th and Vermont. Live music is planned. A polka Mass will be held at 4 p.m.
Cinco de Mayo parade planned May 3
The seventh annual downtown Cinco de Mayo parade is planned at 11 a.m. May 3 in Kansas City, Kan. The parade starts at 6th and Minnesota, travels west on Minnesota and ends on 12th Street, where a festival will take place. There will be food, entertainment, children’s activities, music, and dancing at the festival. The event is sponsored by Bonito Michoacan market.
Marble Day to be May 3 in Bonner Springs
The eighth annual Marble Day will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3, in downtown Bonner Springs, Kan. The event is at Oak Street and Centennial Park. The event kicks off with a Marble Day 5k run at 8 a.m., followed by a Tractor Cruise and Wacky Parade at 9:30 a.m. After opening ceremonies at 10:15 a.m., a marble tournament is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Marble activities and old-fashioned games are planned from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A bike rodeo will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. One of the unique Bonner Springs events, the “Running of the Pinkys,” is planned at noon. It involves a competition where pinky balls are released. The winners of this activity will be announced at 1 p.m. For more information, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/marble-day-to-be-may-3-in-bonner-springs/.
Benefit pancake breakfast planned for Shepherd’s Center
A benefit pancake breakfast fundraiser for the Shepherd’s Center will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 3, at Cross-Lines Retirement Center, 3030 Powell, Kansas City, Kan. The donation for pancakes, bacon, eggs, juice and coffee will be $8. Cross-Lines residents will pay $6. The Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City, Kan., is an interfaith, multicultural nonprofit organization that promotes and supports successful aging.
Maywood pancake breakfast planned
All the pancakes you can eat will be offered for $6 at Maywood Community Church Saturday, May 3. Prepared by “Chris Cakes,” pancakes will be served from 9 a.m. until noon at the church at 11201 Parallel Parkway. Open to the public and sponsored by Maywood’s Relay for Life Team, all proceeds will go the American Cancer Society.
Wyandotte County Extension Master Gardeners annual plant sale to be May 3
The annual plant sale of the Wyandotte County Master Gardeners will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or as long as inventory is left) Saturday, May 3, at the Wildcat Room, Wyandotte County Extension office, 1200 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. The Wyandotte County Master Gardeners will offer tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, herbs, and other vegetable and fruit plants started by the members, and collections of perennials, annuals, Kansas native wildflowers and ornamental grasses. New to the sale this year will be succulent plants, gently used books and gardening supplies. Master Gardeners will be on hand to help with selections and answer gardening questions. For information, call 913-299-9300.
Fishing derby planned May 3
A kids fishing derby is planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Cabela’s, 10300 Cabela Drive, Kansas City, Kan. Kids may bring their own fishing equipment to participate.
Blue Devil 5k Fun Run – Walk and Kids Trot to be May 3
The Blue Devil 5k Fun Run – Walk and Kids Trot will be held starting at 9 a.m. Saturday May 3, at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Conference Center, 7250 State Ave.
Health for All Soccer Day scheduled
A Health for All Soccer Day will take place from 7 p.m.to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at St. Margaret’s Park, 230 S. 7th St., Kansas City, Kan. It is free for youth. Youths may register at www.kansascityymca.org/about-y-news/free-soccer-days-clinics or show up 20 minutes early. T-shirts and other items may be given away. For information, call 913-439-9349.
Residents plan garage sale
The resident council of Westgate Towers, 6100 Leavenworth Road, will have a garage sale Friday-Sunday (May 2, 3 and 4) in the highrise parking lot.
Mid-Life Players presents ‘Cats’ in concert May 3 at Alcott
The Mid-Life Players, a local nonprofit musical theater group, will present a concertized performance of the Andrew Lloyd Webber favorite, “Cats,” this Saturday, May 3, at the Alcott Arts Center, 180 S. 18th St., in Kansas City, Kan. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and may be purchased through brownpapertickets.com.