Of Taxes and Torpedoes

Feb 1, 2019 by

A Tale of Two Tax Committees

Senate President, Susan Wagle

If you’ve been reading our reports, you know that we are focused for the time being on the tax discussion in the House and Senate where the latter is grappling with Senate leadership’s desire to give away hundreds of millions of tax dollars before we figure out how to finally fund our schools, expand Medicaid, restore our highway department, and fix our damaged foster care system. It almost feels like the plan is to give away as much revenue as possible so it won’t be possible to do those things. Partisan politics where Senate leadership is willing to risk returning to Brownback-style policies appears to be the prevailing strategy to torpedo Governor Kelly’s budget.

The House is taking a different approach to dealing with the unintended consequences of President Trump’s tax policy- which has been derided by Republican leadership in the Kansas Senate but willingly supported by the six Kansas Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate when the bill came to them.

In the Senate, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) has taken the matter into her own hands, stripping authority for tax issues from Tax Committee Chair Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) and forming her own committee with herself as chair, the Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Implementation.

Wagle’s Committee held a hearing on SB 22, a bill to decouple the Kansas income tax from the federal income tax in order to allow individuals to continue itemizing and to assist corporations in not paying taxes on their overseas earnings.

In the days of discussion – first in Tyson’s Assessment and Taxation Committee and now in Wagle’s Senate Select Committee – the conferee time has been handed over to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the chamber has happily filled that time bringing in corporate tax accountants to wail about the unfairness of it all while making veiled threats about leaving the state if they don’t get what they want. Department of Revenue staff- whose jobs are to provide careful and reasoned analysis of these issues- sit in the committee room waiting patiently to be asked to what seems to be a party they’ve clearly not been invited to.

With about six minutes left in the meeting today, Wagle pushed the bill out of committee on a voice vote. It will now go to the full Senate for debate, probably next week.

Then there’s the House Committee on Taxation chaired by Steven Johnson (R-Assaria). In contrast to the Senate, Johnson has not brought a bill forward. Instead he is holding briefings by the Department of Revenue on how the various issues play out in reality. They spent one day on itemized deductions diving into how many Kansans actually did itemize before the change and what the impact is on those taxpayers who can no longer itemize. They even reviewed hypothetical scenarios to reveal the impact on middle class taxpayers.

They had another day to dive into the two corporate provisions – GILTI and Repatriation – to find out how these provisions work in the real world, again looking at how a typical corporate entity would be taxed with and without the changes sought by the Chamber.

The Chamber will have their time before the committee but not until a bill is scheduled for a hearing. The difference is that in the Senate, the Chamber has essentially been given the spotlight before the committee while the Department of Revenue waits silently in the wings.

It’s a rhetorical question, but we must ask; which chamber is interested in ramming a corporate wish list through the process and which is working deliberately and thoughtfully?

So back to cynical, partisan politics. There are some who believe that Wagle and her allies in the Senate want to ram as many revenue slashing bills through the Senate as they can simply to deny Governor Kelly the ability to responsibly deal with the State’s budgetary obligations – schools, highways, health care, and the crumbling foster care system. In that way, Wagle and her supporters can criticize the Governor for not solving those problems. It’s kind of like a similar strategy used against public schools. Defund them so they’ll struggle, label schools a failure and enact policies that benefit a select few while calling it all “reform.” The Kansas City Star has hypothesized that this is all about Senator Susan Wagle and her desire to run for the United States Senate now that Pat Roberts is retiring. The Star noted, “It’s a deeply cynical, hyper-partisan approach to tax policy.” To read the Star’s take, click here. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out in the coming weeks.

Governor’s school finance bill to get a hearing next week- A CALL TO ACTION.

Senate Bill 44, Governor Kelly’s school finance bill that would enact the State Board of Education’s finance recommendation in response to the latest Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon lawsuit, will get a hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance next Wednesday.

The bill will provide for the inflationary funding increase called for in the Supreme Court ruling without making any other changes to the school finance formula. If adopted as is, most education advocates believe that it will finally result in a fully constitutional school funding system – the first such system in about a decade!

We hope that the Senate will approve the bill with no changes and do so quickly. With the deadlines set by the Supreme Court, the Legislature’s response should be done by March 1. That would allow time for the Attorney General to prepare for the April Court hearing.

We would urge you to contact Senators and let them know how important this issue is. Kansas school employees want to be assured that their schools will open on time for the 2019-20 school year. The time for games and posturing is over. Kansas is close to closing the book on the Gannon suit and ensuring our school finance system is constitutional.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance are; Molly Baumgardner, Jim Denning, Anthony Hensley, Bud Estes, Dan Goddard, Dan Kerschen, Carolyn McGinn, Pat Pettey, and Eric Rucker. You can email them using firstname.lastname@senate.ks.gov. Ask them to support Senate Bill 44 without amendment.


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Governor’s Budget funds schools, health care, foster care… but does not raise taxes.

Jan 17, 2019 by

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly

Governor Kelly outlined her vision for Kansas in her first State of the State Address last night and the focus was on three areas: 1) funding our K-12 schools to end the “cycle of litigation,” 2) expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for 150,000 more Kansans, and 3) restoring our foster care system so that children are cared for. One thing the Governor’s budget does not include is a tax increase.

This morning Budget Director Larry Campbell appeared before a joint meeting of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees to put some meat on the bones of her speech. Campbell served as a Republican State Representative from Olathe before being picked by former Governor Colyer to serve as Budget Director. Governor Kelly has kept Campbell on. He is noted for his even temper, pragmatic outlook, and ability to work “across the aisle” to find solutions to complex problems.

Kelly’s budget is a one year budget except for K-12 education with is a two-year budget. For the past eight years, the Legislature has adopted two-year budgets but Kelly is breaking with that cycle this year, instead focusing on moving ahead for one year while the state continues to recover from the failed Brownback tax experiment that left Kansas on the brink of bankruptcy.

Under Kelly’s budget State Foundation Aid (BASE) would rise from the current $4165 in 2019 to $4436 in 2020, $4569 in 2021, $4706 in 2022, and $4846 in 2023. Beginning in 2024 the base would rise by the Consumer Price Index each year. This funding would provide for the inflation factor that the Supreme Court noted in the last Gannon school finance decision.

The proposal would:

  • Add $521 million from 2020 through 2023 for State Foundation Aid,
  • Fully fund LOB State Aid each year,
  • Continue funding for mental health intervention teams and the Juvenile Transitional Crisis Center in 2020,
  • Fully fund ACT and/or WorkKeys tests in 2020, and
  • Include $950,000 for the Education Super Highway, which will enable $9.5 million in matching federal funds for rural internet broadband initiatives.

Kelly asks the Legislature to pass her school funding plan by February 28 in order to satisfy the Supreme Court ruling.

Here’s what Governor Kelly had to say about education in her speech last night:

[T]hroughout Kansas’ decades-long debate over school funding, we’ve fallen into a troubling pattern. It begins with a promise from elected leaders to fund our schools. Then a failure to follow through on that promise.


That is going to change this year. This year, we will end this cycle of litigation and meet the needs of our students and teachers once and for all.


The days of doing the bare minimum to fund our schools are over. It stops now.


Remember, just a few short years ago, schools closed early because they literally could not afford to stay open. Test scores dropped for the first time in a decade. Class sizes grew – some with more than 30 kids in a single classroom.


Superintendents and principals struggled to hold their districts together, often taking on multiple roles like counselor or bus driver. Sometimes they even refused to be paid, just to keep their budgets above water.
Teachers fled the state. And those who stayed received an average salary that ranked 42nd in the nation.


The consequences were tangible and the scars are lasting.
Never again.


The consequences were tangible and the scars are lasting.
Never again.

We’re going to properly fund our schools this year. And next year. And the year after that. Every year, every month, every day that I’m governor. 

And we’re going to make sure our schools prepare our children for a changing economy. Modern classrooms with modern technologies.

Because at the end of the day, we need our children to graduate high school or college or technical school so they can find jobs right here in Kansas. So they can stay here and raise their families close to home.

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Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia: Penultimate Meeting?

Nov 29, 2018 by

The Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia met this week in an effort to begin (and hopefully finish) drafting their final report to the Legislature which is due on January 30, 2019. It didn’t take long to become clear that more time would be needed.

They did hear from each of their four subcommittees and begin to discuss the draft reports from each. Those subcommittees and their members are:

  • The Subcommittee on Evidence-Based Reading Practices, Rep. Brenda Dietrich, chair. Members are Jennifer Bettles, Jaime Callaghan, Christine Middleton, and Sonja Watkins.
  • The Subcommittee on Pre-Service and In-Service Professional Development, Dr. David Hurford, chair. Members are Alisia Matteoni, Jeanine Phillips, Jeri Powers, and Angie Schreiber.
  • The Subcommittee on Screening and Evaluation Process, Sen. Bruce Givens, chair. Members are Sarah Brinkley, Tally Fleming, and Jennifer Knight.
  • The Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, Laura Jurgensen, chair. Members are Mike Burgess and Lori McMillan. This subcommittee is made up of the ex-officio, non-voting members of the Task Force.

Each of the first three reports generated significant discussion which quickly challenged the agenda set by Task Force Chairman Jim Porter. Dietrich and Hurford both were also carrying edits to their reports as well as suggestions that certain recommendations would be abandoned or dramatically altered.

Among all the recommendations, perhaps those generating the most discussion and concern were the ones dealing with teacher training.

One recommendation under evidence-based reading practices calls for the State Board of Education to “provide training for all Kansas teachers to create dyslexia-friendly classrooms by incorporating strategies and approaches described in Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (IDA).” The limits to the ability of the SBOE to require training to all teachers including those in private and unaccredited schools ran up against the desire by many on the Task Force to see that every teacher in every kind of school, every teacher from pre-K through high school, creates a dyslexia-friendly classroom.

Similar discussions arose during the discussion of the report on pre-service and in-service professional development. Some wanted to see new master’s degree programs established in dyslexia, others sought endorsements. Some wanted specific numbers of annual hours of training for all teachers, others argued that such annual trainings would end up being something “people just sit through mindlessly like the blood-borne pathogens training.” A recommendation calling for the creation of new positions as “Classroom Dyslexia Educator,” “Dyslexia Practitioner,” and “Dyslexia Trainer/Supervisor” will likely be dropped.

Near the end of the meeting, Laura Jurgensen, an attorney and chair of the Subcommittee on Current State and Federal Law, urged each of the groups to be very precise in their language. They must consider the impact of phrases like “all teachers” and “all districts” and to remember that everything has a cost. Jurgensen pointed out that monies for education are directed to certain programs and tasks. Any recommendation that has a fiscal impact would require either shifting money from some current programs and efforts or finding a new funding stream.

Chairman Porter will ask that the Task Force, in some form, be maintained in order to have annual meetings for the purpose of evaluating progress. Staff pointed out that this Task Force will cease to exist on January 30 but that the Legislature could create another one or one could be appointed by the Governor or the State Board of Education.

It is noteworthy that no subcommittee had recommendations for the Legislature. All recommendations are directed toward the State Board of Education and some would naturally fall to the State Board of Regents.

The Task Force will meet again on January 10 at which time they will work to finalize the recommendations and to merge the four subcommittee reports into one document.

The subcommittee reports are not currently available online.

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We Had an Election!

Nov 7, 2018 by

Governor-Elect, Laura Kelly

The 2018 election is finally over and the preliminary results are in. It’s what you might call a “mixed bag.”

On the one hand, on the federal level, the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Kansas is part of that change with the defeat of Kevin Yoder and the election of Sharice Davids in CD 3 which includes Johnson and Wyandotte Counties and part of Miami County. The new House of Representatives is likely to act as a check on President Trump and especially the wishes of his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Kansas has also elected a Democratic Governor and sent Kris Kobach back to the private sector- although no one really believes he will be gone for long. The extreme conservative ideology of the Brownback administration will be replaced by an administration known for cooperation and compromise. We look forward to that!

But there are some significant changes to the Kansas House of Representatives and the possibility of big changes in our Senate as well despite the fact that only one Senate seat was on the ballot this year.

So what follows is our preliminary analysis. We should let you know that we are working off the Secretary of State’s preliminary election results and final results won’t be available for a while yet. While not likely, it is possible that some results could change.

Additionally, we warn you that when looking at new Republican legislators it is sometimes difficult to be certain whether they will fall into the Moderate or Conservative camps once they start voting. We rely on the wisdom of those who have some familiarity with them but it’s not a scientific analysis!

Here we go!

The Democrats

The House Democratic Caucus has declined by one seat, going from 40 to 39. While six incumbent Democrats lost their re-election bid (Adam Lusker HD 2, Debbie Deere HD 40, Tim Hodge HD 72, Ed Trimmer HD 79, Steve Crum HD 98, and Eber Phelps HD 111), five new Democrats were elected making it almost a wash.

The six incumbent Democrats who lost were all defeated by Conservative Republicans.

The five new Democrats are Susan Ruiz in HD 23 who defeated Moderate Republican Linda Gallagher, Rui Xu in HD 25 who defeated Moderate Republican Melissa Rooker, Brandon Woodard in HD 30 who won an open seat where incumbent Randy Powell retired, Mike Amyx in HD 45 who will replace retiring Moderate Republican Tom Sloan, and Dave Benson in HD 48 who defeated Conservative incumbent Abraham Rafie.

Three of the new Democrats are replacing Moderate Republicans while two took seats from Conservatives.

The Moderate Republicans

Moderate Republicans picked up four seats currently held by Conservatives: Mark Samsel HD 5 replaces Conservative Kevin Jones who lost his primary for Congress, J.C. Moore HD 93 who defeated Conservative John Whitmer in the primary and went on to win the general, Nick Hoheisel HD 97 who will replace retiring Conservative Les Osterman, and Bill Pannbacker HD 106 who will replace retiring Conservative Clay Aurand.

But Moderate Republicans lost three seats they currently hold to Democrats in the general (Gallagher, Rooker, and Sloan) and an additional six Moderates will be replaced by Conservatives who defeated them in the primary. Those six are HD 8 where Chris Croft defeated Patty Markley, HD 28 where Kellie Warren defeated Joy Koesten, HD 39 where Owen Donohoe will replace retiring Shelee Brim, HD 74 where Steven Kelly defeated Don Schroeder, HD 75 where Will Carpenter defeated Mary Martha Good, HD 80 where Bill Rhiley defeated Anita Judd-Jenkins, HD 87 where Renee Erickson will replace retiring Roger Elliott, and HD 104 where Paul Waggoner defeated Steven Becker.

That’s a loss of 11 Moderate Republican seats offset by three Democrats resulting in Conservatives taking eight Moderate seats.

The Coalition

So with Democrats down by one seat and Moderate Republicans down by 11, the Conservatives will have a solid block that can control leadership elections and then the appointment of committee chairs and vice chairs.

In analyzing the Democrat/Moderate coalition that managed to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and restore a sound school finance system, we must look at a couple of factors. First, Democrats usually vote as a solid block in favor of public education which means there will almost certainly be 39 votes in support of public education issues. Sadly 39 votes cannot pass good legislation or defeat bad legislation. That means the Democrats must have the support of 24 Republicans to get to the necessary 63 vote majority.

Our legislative agenda is tied to the ability of Democrats and Moderate Republicans to work together to overcome the Conservative plurality. We believe that the new House will have just enough solid Moderate Republicans to reach the 63 vote threshold with the 39 Democrats. There are also an additional eight or nine Republicans who vote sometimes with the Conservatives and sometimes with the Moderates. If we can move some of those Republicans to support the coalition, we might be okay.

That’s where the cooperation comes in. With diminished numbers of Moderate Republicans and Democrats, it will be more important than ever that these two factions work together and cooperate in developing and passing good legislation that helps our schools and keeps our state moving forward.

In the Senate

While only one seat was up in the Senate- a special election to finish the term of SD 13 currently held by Richard Hilderbrand who was appointed to the seat when former senator Jake LaTurner became State Treasurer. Hilderbrand survived a challenge from Democrat Bryan Hoffman to retain the seat so the Senate remains 30 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Independent.

But the actual membership and make-up of the Senate will be changing.

Democratic Senators Laura Kelly and Lynn Rogers were elected as Governor and Lieutenant Governor meaning new Senators will be selected to replace them. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt was elected as Insurance Commissioner and a new Senator will be selected to replace her. These selections are made by the precinct committee chairs in the District representing the party of the departing Senator. So Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 18 will pick a Democratic replacement for Kelly, Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 25 will pick a Democratic replacement for Rogers, and Republican precinct committee chairs in SD 20 will pick a Republican replacement for Schmidt.

There is no telling yet who their replacements might be. They could be chosen from out of the House meaning some new House members would then need to be selected in the same manner or they could select entirely new people. In the case of Vicki Schmidt, the selection depends on the ideology of the precinct committee chairs. If they are mostly conservatives then Moderate Republican Schmidt could be replaced by a Conservative.

There is also much speculation about two other Senators. Independent John Doll left the Republican Party to run as Greg Orman’s running mate. What will he decide to do? Will the Republicans welcome him back? Will he stay as an independent or will he become a Democrat? Will he decide to resign from the Senate? The other one is Republican Senator Barbara Bollier whose public endorsements of Democrats Laura Kelly for Governor and Sharice Davids for Congress brought the wrath of Senate Republican leadership down upon her. What will happen to her if she returns as a Republican? Will she be given the worst assignments or welcomed back? Might she become a Democrat or another Independent?

So the Senate is still up in the air as to how it will look come January.

We have a new Governor!

We are very excited that the election of Laura Kelly as Governor means the door has finally been shut on the extreme conservative administration of Sam Brownback.

Kelly and her Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers are staunch supporters of public schools and public school educators. Kelly has twice won the KNEA “Friend of Education Award” and Rogers has served as a member of the Wichita Public Schools School Board. Both are known for an ability to reach across the aisle to seek compromise for the good of the state.

We are confident that Kelly will do her utmost to include all legislative factions in the process of crafting good legislation to address the issues facing Kansans but also that she will be willing to use her veto pen should she be presented with legislation that turns back the progress made during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

We look forward to working with her throughout her time as Governor.

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YOUR VOTE COUNTS. SO, CAST IT!

Nov 5, 2018 by

Have you voted yet? We really want to know because EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

You don’t have to look far to see how important every vote is. Just this past August, right here in Kansas, Kris Kobach won the GOP primary for Governor by just 343 votes out of 314,890 cast. And in Kansas House District 104, moderate and pro-public education Representative Steven Becker lost to an extreme conservative by just 9 votes  out of 4,081 cast.

(By the way, if you live in HD 104 in Reno County, don’t count Becker out – write him in!)

We’ve said this so many times before but it is still true. Why risk being the one vote that could have made a difference? VOTE!

We came across this article on NPR, Why Every Vote Matters — The Elections Decided By A Single Vote (Or A Little More), and found it to be the best argument for making sure you get to the polls to cast your vote. Our favorite story in the article is the election in which Kevin Entze, a police officer from Washington state, lost a GOP primary in a state House race by one vote out of more than 11,700 cast. And then he found out that one of his fellow reserve officers forgot to mail in his ballot. “He left his ballot on his kitchen counter, and it never got sent out,” Entze told Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Every vote really does matter to public school educators because every aspect of your professional life is impacted by the decisions politicians make.

How much funding your school gets is decided by the politicians elected as state Senators, Representatives, and Governor. How much you get paid and what your health benefits will cost is determined by the politicians on your school board. They also decide when you get new textbooks, what your supply budget will be, and how many students will be in your classroom. Rules for renewing your license are determined by the politicians on the State Board of Education.

You have to abide by their decisions and so you must use your vote to protect your profession.

So, if you have not yet voted in this election, you simply have to do so tomorrow, November 6.

You can’t let the weather deter you. You can’t let yourself lose track of the time and get there too late. Casting your vote is the most important thing you will do tomorrow for your career, your profession, and your students.

 

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Lesson from Alaska…Are you listening, Greg?

Oct 30, 2018 by

Kansas is not the only state to face a three-way governor’s race this year.

There are three names on the Alaska ballot as well. One is incumbent Alaska governor and Independent candidate Bill Walker who finds himself challenged by Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy.

But what makes the Alaska race different from the Kansas race is the fact that the independent candidate in Alaska announced he was dropping out of the race and endorsing the Democrat.

Walker came to the conclusion that he would simply be a spoiler in a three-way race and that, in his words, “Alaskans deserve a competitive race.” Walker knows that his positions are more in line with Democrat Mark Begich than with Republican Mike Dunleavy. He realized that Begich had a better chance of winning than he did and that he and Begich would simply split the moderate vote, handing the election to conservative Dunleavy.

Following Walker’s decision, there were tweets aplenty here in Kansas urging independent Greg Orman to do the same. Orman, who has not gone beyond 10% of voters in multiple polls, is likely to play the role of spoiler and hand the Kansas governor’s race to Kris Kobach.

And in big news today, Orman’s treasurer resigns, endorses Laura Kelly!

The Wichita Eagle reports that Greg Orman’s campaign treasurer, former state Senator Tim Owens, has resigned from the Orman campaign and endorsed Democrat Laura Kelly. In a press release from the Kelly campaign, Owens said, “This is a critical election for Kansas. We cannot risk the future of our state.” Click here to read the Eagle story.

All of this leads us to remind ourselves that a lot is at stake in this election. To that end, we’d like to share an article we published in our last print edition of EDTALK, “Orman? Kobach? What about Orbach?”

 

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