28 June, 2017
The Kansas Legislature adjourned the first year of the 87th session June 26th. The 114-day session ties the record set in 2015 for the longest session ever in Kansas. Yet there is quite a contrast in what was accomplished between this year’s session and 2015. In 2015, the budget anticipated $50 million more in expenditures than revenue, even with borrowing and transfers, and gave the executive branch authority to lapse appropriations or transfer additional funds if the ending balance was below $100 million; this year the budget balanced. In 2015, state agencies were tasked with identifying essential employees that would not be subject to emergency furloughs; the upcoming budget includes salary increases for state employees, many of whom have not had a raise in 9 years. In 2015, the school finance formula was replaced with block grants; this year there is a new school finance formula. In 2015, state sales tax was increased from 6.15% to 6.5%; this year the revenue plan focuses on income tax, considered a less regressive tax that is less likely to affect lower-income Kansans.
The budget and school finance plans depended on having an adequate revenue plan. For 10 years, first because of the recession and then because of the “tax experiment”, the state has not been collecting enough in revenue to cover expenses. A YouTube video produced by Davis Hammett of LoudLight does a great job of explaining the state budget situation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUdIOmAo10Y&app To establish budget stability, I voted “AYE” on SB 30, the tax plan that became law after the Senate voted 27-13 and the House 88-31 to override the Governor’s veto. Although the rates are not as high as those collected in 2012, I think we reached a good compromise; the new tax plan will stabilize state finances. The 3 new tiers and the collection of taxes on non-wage income go into effect as of January 1, 2017. Concern about “back-dating” the plan was addressed by increasing tax rates for 2017 by only half of what they will be starting in 2018, so the withholding increase for 2018, if begun July 1, 2017, will make up for missing the first six months of this year. The bill renews the state’s STAR Bonds economic development program until 2022, but places a one-year ban on granting new projects. The plan is estimated to increase receipts by $591 million in FY 2018 and $633 million in FY 2019.
|Individual Income Tax Brackets, Married Filing Jointly|
|Taxable Income||Tax Years
Tax Years 2013-on
Tax Year 2017
Tax Year 2018
|$60,001 and above||6.45%||4.60%||5.20%||5.70%|
A shout-out and thank you to the many women legislators in the House who met in a bipartisan caucus and worked out a proposal for tax plan. I give them credit for the inclusion of phasing in the child credit along with the state deductions for medical expenses, property taxes, and mortgage interest in the final plan. I joined in on several of the meetings and through that had chance to get to know Representative Patsy Terrell, from Hutchinson, who died unexpectedly June 7, 2017, just after the override of the Governor’s veto passed the House. She is remembered for her strong advocacy and delightful presence. She will be missed.
I voted “AYE” on S Sub for HB 2278, exemptions for concealed carry that passed 24-16. It will continue to allow state- or municipal-owned medical care facilities and adult care homes, community mental health centers, indigent health care clinics, and buildings in the health care district associated with the University of Kansas Medical Center to exempt themselves from the requirement for public buildings to have adequate security measures in place before the concealed carry of handguns can be prohibited. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited”. This exemption includes the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Health Care Access, Heartland Community Health Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Additionally, I voted for an amendment to include college campuses in the exemption, as many constituents had requested, but that amendment failed 5-19 due to a request to keep the bill “clean” to address the fiscal concerns and ensure the Governor’s support.
I voted “NO” on SB 19, the new school finance formula. We should know later this summer whether the Kansas Supreme Court thinks this new plan is adequate. I remain concerned. The court may ask for more money to meet the adequacy test; the Base State Aid per Pupil (BSAPP) rate of $4,006 for this coming school year and $4,128 for 2018-19 is less than the $4,400 that was provided for the 2008-09 school year. There are also concerns about equity. When the spending on the BSAPP was reduced, the amount on which the local option budget percentage was figured was not. Both are now set to increase with inflation after 2019, so the amount of the local option budget will increase even faster. This allows wealthy districts to spend more on education than poorer districts. I also oppose the idea of expanding the private scholarship tax credit. This may cost the state as much as $9 million. The courts are focusing on at-risk students, allowing for expenditures outside K-12 such as early childhood education; I am pleased that they are allowing the formula go into effect while they deliberate so that school districts can plan for the coming year.
With revenue and school finance settled, the legislature finalized the budget. I voted “AYE” on S Sub for HB 2002; it passed 27-11. In addition to long-sought raises for state employees, the budget for FY 2018 and FY 2019 rescinds the 4.0% Medicaid provider reduction, adds funds for the Senior Care Act, includes a raise in the rates for caregivers reimbursed through Medicaid, increased funding for Osawatomie State Hospital and the state’s community health centers, and raised 6funding for a State Employee Health Clinic. It reimburses KU and K-State for funds lost when the state cuts to higher education were based on overall funds rather than state funds and plans for repayments to the KPERS, the Kansas Employee Retirement System. There is not enough revenue to restore state payments to the highway fund, but the budget allows for $400 million in bonds for highway maintenance.
The legislature addressed other issues through conference committee reports, many of which I supported. I did vote “NO” on HB 2409 prohibiting state contracts with businesses that are involved with a boycott of Israel. Nonviolent political boycotts are core political speech and government contractors should not be subject to unconstitutional conditions. I also voted “NO” on SB 23, requiring that information already available to women seeking an abortion be printed with 12-point Times New Roman font in black ink on white paper. I initially voted “NO” on the lottery bill that the Governor vetoed that allowed for vending machines for lottery tickets, but changed to “AYE” when a new conference committee report required bingo vending machines to also be operated by the Kansas Lottery. I voted for the new task force to study the child welfare system, the purchase of limited public lands, and changes to taxing e-cigarettes. Information on all legislation is available from the Kansas Legislative Research Department; their Legislative Highlights for 2017 should be available mid-July. I regret that the legislature did not reconsider Medicaid expansion or amendments to the Pet Animal Act but believe that those issues will come up again in the next session. Last, but certainly not least, I had the pleasure of sponsoring a resolution on May 31st recognizing Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s dedicated service to the University of Kansas and the State of Kansas.
Thank you for all your comments. I will be checking my Senate e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org;
I always appreciate hearing from you. Enjoy the summer!