with Kansas State Senator Jim Denning, Kansas Senate Majority Leader
Posted Dec 22, 2017
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Kansas state legislators put their ideologies to the side and worked together to stabilize the Kansas Budget. Kansas State Senator Jim Denning, Majority Leader of the Kansas State Senate discusses the successful bipartisan effort.
Interview recorded November 30, 2017.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: With the state economy in the red, Kansas lawmakers from opposing parties united to reverse the decline. An immediate benefit -- schools across the state received $300 million in new funding. Hello, everyone, and welcome to ""Comcast Newsmakers."" I'm Robert Traynham, and joining me is Senator Jim Denning. He's the majority leader of the Kansas State Senate, and one of 2017 Governing magazine Public Officials of the Year. Senator Denning, welcome to the program.
Denning: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Traynham: So it's widely known that your home state went through a steep decline in revenue. I think a lot of folks around the country were saying "How are they gonna get out of this?" And you clearly, along with your Democratic colleagues and the Governor, figured out a solution. Tell us about it.
Denning: Sure, we had cut taxes significantly starting in calendar year '13, and we had two provisions in our tax policy. One was a pass-through where small businesses and sole proprietorships would not pay any tax at all on their non-wage income, and that ended up being a loophole that we ended up closing. And the other thing that we had in the policy was that it was marching to zero, that is to say marching down to zero tax, and it was just a statutory march. It wasn't based on any economic activity. And by the second year of the tax cut, we had realized that we had gone too deep, that we needed to reverse a bit of that tax cut to stabilize the budget. We were starting to get to the point where we couldn't fund our core services like schools, mental health, you know, the...
Traynham: The basic necessities, if you will?
Denning: Yeah, just the basic -- correct.
Traynham: Senator, let's talk for a few moments about the rainy day fund and that concept. I'm from Pennsylvania, and I know when I was in college and also in high school, there was the state legislature, and I was saying, "Listen, happy days are here again, and this is great from a revenue standpoint, but let's plan as though that the happy days will end at some point, and so let's have a savings account, if you will." And as I understand it, your doing something very similar.
Denning: Yes, we're looking at a rainy day fund next year, and you say, you know, the economy, it ebbs and flows. Right now it's flowing. We're having 3% GDP growth, and we're certainly seeing that at the state level, but we know that a recession is inevitable. We just came through the 2002 recession, and then the deep recession of 2008 and 2009, so we know that the economy will once again contract, and we would like to have a rainy day fund built up so that we'd have a little bit of a cushion so we can continue to fund those core services without taking on additional debt or just simply cutting.