Sept 19, 2022
Even though the Legislature is not in session, there have been some interim committee meetings and several people have asked that I write an update.
Last week, a Legislative Post-Audit (LPA) report on federal COVID-19 money distributions and spending was presented. Kansas governments (state, counties, cities, schools…) received over $34 billion of the $5.2 trillion from six major federal COVID relief programs in 2020 and 2021. The $34 billion doesn’t include federal money sent directly to Kansas non-profits, businesses, and individuals through other programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Keep in mind state spending in 2014 (before the two massive tax increases that I did not support) was under $6 billion State General Funds and $15 billion All Funds. In 2022 it is estimated to be $8.5 billion and $22.3 billion, so the federal government dumped more money on Kansas governments than the state spends in one year. With the federal government handing out this amount of money it is no wonder we are experiencing inflation.
Out of the $34 billion, LPA reviewed a sampling of 78 CARES Act purchases, projects, and grants totaling just under $18 million. Approximately $4.3 million of the $18 million reviewed had possible issues and a portion “appeared to be wasteful or of concern”. “For example, one county spent almost $225,000 to add showers to a community emergency shelter… [another community] spent $20,000 to help put on a local festival… another county spent funds on donuts, pastries, and coffee for meetings”. The report is posted online at https://www.kslpa.org/audit-report-library/covid-relief-funding-distribution/. Such waste in the $18 million makes one question how much of the $34 billion was wasted? And what the total waste was of the trillions of dollars given away by the federal government?
The Unemployment Council also met to review an independent audit. The audit estimated over $400 million was paid out in fraudulent unemployment claims and over 200 security vulnerabilities were found within the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) unemployment system. The $400 million is a considerable drop from estimates of over $700 million presented by LPA earlier this year. Neither number is good news. To put it into perspective, our neighbors to the west, Colorado with a population of almost double Kansas, reported $73 million in fraudulent payments.
On a positive note, many property taxpayers will not see as high of increases because of the Revenue Neutral Rate (RNR) transparency. Several counties and other local governments, including a school district in Leavenworth County, chose not to increase property taxes this year.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.