Taxes, Cuts, and Revenue

Feb 8, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Senate unveils two-pronged strategy to restore a portion of state revenue.
  • Tax bill SB 147 does not solve shortfall and fails to address long-term problems.
  • SB 27 is a bill to cut funding to K-12 and Regents institutions to grab another chunk of revenue to fill the Governor’s revenue hole.
  • Full senate to convene on Thursday to debate both bills.
  • Rise Up Kansas plan gets committee hearing today.
  • KNEA joined 13 proponents from various organizations to support the bill.
  • 5 groups opposed the bill including Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Policy Institute and Kansas Chamber of Commerce among others.

 

The Senate has crafted a two-pronged plan, approved by Senate President Susan Wagle, that includes a tax bill which seeks to increase revenue (SB 147) and a bill which cuts funding to K-12 education and higher ed Regents institutions (SB 27).

The tax bill (SB 147) would raise approximately $280 million in new revenue. Unfortunately, the Brownback-created revenue hole is so deep, this plan is far short of what is needed to reverse the tax cuts of 2012 and 2013. Additionally, SB 147 is not a comprehensive, long-term solution.

The funding-cut bill would reduce spending in FY 2017 by $154 million. Most of the reduction would come after taking $128 million from K-12 education with another $23 million from Regents institutions. Overall, this plan cuts K-12 education by 5%, higher education by 3%, and the Schools for the Deaf and Blind by 1%.

The leadership of the Senate plans to convene the full Senate at 8:00 am on Thursday and work both bills.

We oppose the tax bill because it does not fully address the disaster brought on by the Brownback cuts. Passing this plan, even coupled with cuts, would require the legislature to address continuing shortfalls going forward with more tax increase votes likely. We support a comprehensive tax plan that restores funding such that vital state services can be adequately funded.

We also oppose the draconian cuts to K-12 education and higher education. When the Governor is challenging higher education institutions to provide a $15,000 undergraduate degree, it is counterproductive to cut state funding for our colleges and universities. As for the K-12 cuts, any cuts run counter to common sense as we await the decision on adequacy by the Kansas Supreme Court.

We are pleased to see that the House Taxation Committee appears to be on a more rational path, examining a proposal to raise enough money to restore fiscal stability to Kansas.

We urge the Senate to amend the tax bill to include a comprehensive solution or send SB147 back to Committee. While the tax bill is a move in the right direction, it falls far short of what is necessary to put Kansas back on sound financial footing. We urge the senate to vote no on SB 27, the “cuts bill.”

We believe that both chambers need to develop comprehensive tax policy bills that provide for the restoration of funding necessary for vital state services. We do not wish to be in a position to consider still more cuts and more tax increases indefinitely into the future.


Rise Up Plan Gets Hearing!

The Rise Up tax reform plan supported by KNEA, Kansas Action for Children (KAC), AFT/KOSE, the Kansas Contractors Association, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG) and others got its day in Committee today.

The first proponent of the plan was Duane Goosen, the former budget director for Governors Graves, Sebelius, and Parkinson. Other proponents included KCEG Executive Director Heidi Holliday, Wesley McCain of Healthy Communities Wyandotte, KAC President Annie McKay, Christina Ostmeyer of Kansas Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, Scott Englemeyer of the Kansas Association of Community Action Programs, Rob Gilligan of KASB, Bob Totten of the Kansas Contractors Association, Reverend Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan of the Kansas Interfaith Alliance, KNEA’s Mark Desetti, AFT/KOSE Executive Director Rebecca Proctor, Ashley Jones-Wisner of Healthy Kids Kansas, and Scott Anderson of Hamm Companies (highway construction firm).

Opponents kicked off their arguments with Dave Trabert, anti-government zealot with the Kansas Policy Institute, Jeff Glendening with Americans for Prosperity, Tom Palace with Independent Petroleum Marketers, Tom Whitaker of Kansas Motorcarriers Association (opposing only motor fuel tax increase), Eric Stafford of Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

One neutral conferee from Kansas Association of Counties.

13 proponents to 5 opponents (where 1 opponent only opposes the motor fuel tax).

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Guns Win; DeVos Moves Ahead Thanks to Pat Roberts

Jan 31, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Gun bill SB 53 allowing colleges to prohibit firearms on campus FAILS to move out of Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs despite hearing from hundreds of proponents including parent groups, students, educators, law enforcement, and others.
  • HB 2074 (identical bill) hearing in House Committee on Federal and State Affairs tomorrow morning, KNEA and dozens of proponents expected to testify in favor.
  • If House bill advances, Senate will have opportunity to reconsider and side with citizen majority rather than NRA lobbyists.
  • U.S. Senator Pat Roberts votes in lock-step with party to move anti-public education zealot on to full Senate vote for confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education.
  • DeVos’s fitness for the post continues to be questioned as new allegations surface that she plagiarized responses on her committee questionnaire.
  • Call Senator Jerry Moran and encourage him to vote against Betsy Devos confirmation:  Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

Senate Committee Backs NRA, Turn Backs on Students & Faculty

This morning the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs voted to reject Senate Bill 53 which would have allowed colleges to decide for themselves whether or not to allow guns on campus.

Testimony before the committee had been overwhelmingly in favor of the bill with students and faculty joined by parent groups and other education groups but still a majority of committee members bowed to the NRA.

A House Bill with the same content, HB 2074, will get a hearing in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee tomorrow. Should that bill go through the House, the Senate will have a chance to reconsider.

In the meantime, you can communicate your frustration with the continued dominance of the NRA despite public support for the bill. If the bill does not pass, then come July 1, 2017, colleges will no longer be able to prohibit the carrying of firearms on campus unless they can provide metal detectors and security staff at every building entrance on campus. As a side note, the legislature will provide no funds at all to pay for the installation of metal detectors or the ongoing cost of security staff.

Members of the Senate Federal and State Committee are: Republicans Jacob LaTurner, Bud Estes, Bruce Givens, Jeff Longbine, Ty Masterson, Rob Olson, and Caryn Tyson and Democrats Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Lynn Rogers. You can find their email addresses and phone numbers by clicking here.

The vote was a voice vote so we cannot tell you exactly how each Senator voted. As best we could tell there were three votes in favor of the bill. Senator Jeff Longbine was not at the committee meeting having been called to a Senate leadership meeting on tax policy.


US Senator Pat Roberts Votes to Approve Anti-Public Education Zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

Washington Post

In the United States Senate today, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 12 to 11 to advance Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for Consideration. All 12 Republicans – including Kansas Senator Pat Roberts – voted YES on DeVos while all 11 Democrats voted NO.

The DeVos nomination now goes before the full Senate where Kansas Senator Jerry Moran will have his chance to vote.

It’s time to let Moran know what you think. Call his offices and urge him to vote NO on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. She is unqualified – in her hearing she was unable to identify IDEA as special education and suggested that schools needed guns to fight off grizzly bear attacks – and she has a long history of working to destroy public education in Michigan.  Just today, new questions about Devos’s fitness for service have arisen as some of her responses given during her confirmation proceedings appear to be plagiarized. 

Moran’s office numbers are: (202) 224-6521 (Washington); (785) 628-6401 (Hays); (785) 539-8973 (Manhattan); (620) 232-2286 (Pittsburg); (316) 631-1410 (Wichita); and (913) 393-0711 (Olathe).

 

 

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Kansas Day Under the Dome

Jan 30, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Kansas Day celebrated in the statehouse.
  • Budget cuts- possibly to education- are being discussed as part of a strategy to deal with a $350 million shortfall.
  • Cuts to KPERS not included in House Appropriations committee report.
  • Consolidation of district purchases and health care plans will be heard in committee later in the week.
  • Hearing in House committee this week on bill allowing colleges to restrict guns on campus (identical to Senate bill from last week).
  • A comprehensive, sensible, long-term plan for dealing with Governor Brownback’s revenue disaster introduced as a bill in House Tax committee.  Plan known as “Rise Up Kansas!” has support from several organizations including KNEA.
  • New concerns have been raised regarding the new rules for Working After Retirement from both employers, employees and retirees.
  • To see a complete explanation of the rules and exceptions please see https://www.kpers.org/pdf/WARschools.pdf

Today is the day for legislators to celebrate Kansas Day. This includes showing a film about the writing of “Home on the Range” and a performance of the song by Michael Martin Murphey on the Senate floor.


Budget Talks Happening; Rumors Still Abound

There were few committee meetings today but that does not mean things are not moving. Committees are moving toward presenting a solution to the $350 million shortfall in the FY 2017 budget. There are still moving parts and some still believe there might be some level of across the board cuts which would include the possibility of cuts to education.

The education report before the House Appropriations committee does not include the Governor’s irresponsible cuts to KPERS funding. The full committee will take up the issue later this week.

Also up this week will be hearings on a bill to consolidate school district purchases on a state level and another to consolidate school district health care plans. Both were part of the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study and both were included in the Governor’s budget plan. Some people believe the discussion of the health care consolidation will be canceled while the await an upcoming report on the issue by the Legislative Post Audit Division. While both of these bills were introduced as a courtesy to the Governor and to spur discussion, neither seems to have much popular support at this time.

Meanwhile, the tax committees continue to examine various tax solutions with an eye to reversing the damage that is being done to Kansas by the reckless 2012 tax cuts touted by Governor Brownback as just the thing to provide “a shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy.” This week the House Taxation Committee will be looking at sales tax exemptions; income tax brackets and the glide path to zero income tax; taxes on cigarettes, liquor, and motor fuel; and how retirement benefits are taxed.

Also up this week will be a hearing on the House version of the bill to allow colleges to determine whether or not firearms may be carried on campus. The hearing in the Senate last week found lots of support for repealing the current law which requires colleges to allow guns after July 1, 2017 unless they provide security at all entrances to every building. The Senate hearing happened on the same day it was revealed that Rep. Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) left a loaded handgun in a committee room. Thankfully it was found and turned in to police by a responsible adult and not picked up by one of the hundreds of school children that tour the Capitol every day.


Rise Up Tax Plan Introduced

With an eye to fixing the damage done by the disastrous 2012 tax plans, a new comprehensive proposal was introduced today in the House Tax Committee.

The RISE UP plan as it is called was put together after lots of research and examination of what changes would provide for a restored Kansas. Among the components of the plan are the repeal of the LLC exemption, ending the glide path to zero income tax, adding a new higher income tax bracket, reducing the sales tax on food, and adding an increase in the motor fuels tax. KNEA is among the organizations supporting RISE UP along with Kansas Action for Children, AFT/KOSE, the Kansas Contractors Association, and the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

Read more about the Rise Up plan at www.riseupkansas.org.

Also introduced today was a bill by the Kansas chapter of the American Cancer Society that would raise the cigarette tax by $1.50/pack and the tobacco products tax by an equivalent amount. This would be a greater tax increase on cigarettes and tobacco than the Govenor’s proposal. Brownback has sought a cigarette tax increase of $1.50 and was given a $0.50/pack increase in an earlier session. He has recommended an additional $1.00/pack this year.


Working After Retirement- WAR

The topic of Working After Retirement is again the subject of study for a subcommittee of the House Financial Institutions and Pension Committee. The subcommittee is Co-Chaired by Representatives Jim Kelly and Representative Dan Hawkins.  New concerns have been raised regarding the new rules for Working After Retirement from both employers, employees and retirees. The subcommittee met on Monday to hear and review the concerns from school districts, local governments, and KNEA.

At the center of the concerns are the number of exemptions to the rules for WAR. Currently, anyone who retirees from an employer with employees covered by the KPERS system has a $25,000 annual earnings cap. For example, if an employee retires and returns to work they have a $25,000 earnings cap in a calendar year. Once that cap is reached then the employee must stop working or basically “Unretire”. There are exceptions to the rule including those retirees who are “grandfathered” in under the previous rules that reached sunset on July 1, 2016.

To see a complete explanation of the rules and exceptions please see https://www.kpers.org/pdf/WARschools.pdf  Pages 2-3 offer an explanation to exceptions for K-12. For Community College and Tech College employees and retirees see https://www.kpers.org/pdf/WARcommtech.pdf which has the explanations of exceptions for Community College and Tech College employees.

KNEA’s position is that the new rules are complicated and need to be simplified for all those involved with Working After Retirement. There are times that intelligent and well-meaning people sometimes over complicate a problem while working to solve that very problem. If there is an unfilled teaching position, no matter what the cause of the opening, it is important to find a qualified and willing person to fill that position. The new rules seem to be a hindrance to the hiring of a willing and qualified applicant based solely on the fact that they had previously worked for a KPERS employer. Working towards simplifying the rules for both employers and employees is a goal that KNEA would recommend.

The subcommittee will most likely meet again on Wednesday after the regular meeting of the House Financial Institutions and Pensions Committee.

 

 

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Gun Scare Under the Dome!

Jan 26, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Packed house for hearing on SB 53 allowing colleges to keep guns off campus.
  • Hearing coincided with statehouse buzz over Rep. Willie Dove having left his loaded .380 pistol in 5th-floor conference room for anyone to access (including the dozens of children who visit the statehouse daily).
  • More than 50 proponents testified in favor of SB 53 with a handful of opponents testifying against the bill including former Senator Forrest Knox.
  • House Ed Committee hears bill allowing districts to strip homestead exemption in order to gain revenue for special needs students.
  • Bill characterized by its main proponent Committee Chairman, Clay Aurand as a “bad bill” but allows legislators to avoid having to vote for a tax increase (passing on that responsibility to the local community instead).
  • KNEA advocates for a comprehensive and sensible tax policy instead of trickery to solve Brownback’s legacy of failure.

Read media coverage here.

Keeping Guns Off of College Campuses

Rep. Willie Dove provides tangible evidence of need for responsible gun laws

KNEA testified in favor of SB 53, a bill that would allow college campuses to ban firearms. Our testimony focused on the fact that college campuses are occupied by young people under an enormous amount of stress – the stress of being away from home for the first time, the stress of adjusting to roommates, the stress of grades and adjusting to new kinds of teaching and learning schedules, the stress of new romantic relationships. We’ve had plenty of examples of what can happen when a highly stressed, anxious individual can do when carrying a weapon on campus.

Those who favor allowing anyone and everyone to carry a gun on campus somehow believe that these tragic events will be less tragic if more people pull out weapons and try to quickly “take down” an attacker. The sad fact is that adding more guns to the situation including guns in the hands of untrained individuals simply increases the possibility that more people will be shot. Additionally, it puts law enforcement responders who must react quickly and decisively in the position of trying to sort out the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guy.”

This week also had a special “gun show” under the dome! During a House Education Committee meeting in which the Kansas Teacher of the Year team was making a presentation, Representative Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs) left the committee room appearing to be in anger. And he left behind his own loaded handgun! We can only assume that Rep. Dove needs to carry heat in the capitol to protect him from angry constituents.

The capitol hosts hundreds of school children every day. Teachers take those children through committee rooms. When the committee rooms are empty, children pose at the tables where Senators and Representatives debate bills. Imagine what happens when a curious 9-year-old finds a loaded pistol just sitting there.

Will SB 53 stop an individual intent on doing harm from acting? No. Will it decrease the likelihood that a tragic situation will escalate into something more deadly? Certainly. And will SB 53 stop law-abiding citizens from making a Willie Dove mistake? Absolutely. If the capitol was a firearms free building, we assume a law-abiding citizen like Rep. Dove would have left his weapon in his car. No weapon would have been inadvertently left loaded and ready where anyone could pick it up.

House Education Committee Considers Letting School Boards Waive Homestead Exemption

Kansas homeowners get a break on property taxes with something called the Homestead Exemption. This allows the first $20,000 of assessed valuation to be exempt from property taxes.

House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand (R-Belleville) introduced HB 2078 which would allow school boards to waive part or all of the Homestead exemption by passing a resolution. Such a resolution would be subject to a protest petition. The impact would be to allow school districts raise additional money through property taxes.

Aurand held a hearing for HB 2078 yesterday during which he emphatically called this a “bad bill” before reversing course saying, “maybe that’s a stretch.”

Most of the questions on the bill dealt with how it would impact equity issues in school finance. The state has already lost the issue of equity at the Supreme Court level. The legislature responded with legislation to restore equity. The Supreme Court ruled then that the equity issue was appropriately addressed.

Aurand believes that the exemption is constitutionally questionable and further noted that passage of this bill would allow districts to get more money while legislators would not have to vote for any tax increase. This has become a common trend in the Kansas legislature – they love to pass the hard decisions on taxation and revenue collection on to local units of government. Legislators can then boast that they did not raise taxes even as their constituents complain about their taxes going up.

Legislative policy under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback has been to cut revenue to the point where services suffer and then count on cities, counties, and school districts to use whatever authority they have to make up the difference.

It’s time for legislators to abandon trickery and face up to the task at hand. The legislature needs to reverse course on the disastrous and irresponsible tax policies they have put in place since 2012 and pass a new tax plan that provides for the needs of our citizens.

 

 

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Guns and good beef

Jan 25, 2017 by

First Gun Bill in Senate Scheduled for Hearing

Senate Bill 53 which would create a permanent exemption for public buildings to the current gun carry law. Under current law college campuses will have until July 1, 2017 to provide security solutions that will stop guns from coming into buildings. If a college cannot provide such security – a metal detector and security at every building entrance – then they cannot prohibit the carrying of firearms in their buildings. Senate Bill 53 strikes the date. While the bill does not outright ban weapons from campuses, it allows each college to put a policy in place based on their situation.

Student, faculty, and administrative groups have all opposed the current law, wishing to keep their campuses safe. College campuses are stressful places for students. Many of these students are away from home for the first time, adjusting to new kinds of schedules, and trying to get along with roommates. They are worried about grades. They might be in new romantic relationships that can go wrong.

While colleges might prohibit firearms on campus, there is of course no guarantee that someone won’t violate the policy. That will always be a problem. But to have multiple persons pull out firearms in defense simply increases the likelihood that there will be victims. Beyond that, it creates a serious problem for law enforcement when responding to an incident. A police officer has no way, in the split seconds it takes to respond, to determine who are the “good guys” and who is the perpetrator.

The bill just came out today and a hearing has been scheduled for Thursday.


Who Among Us Prefers a Select Grade Steak Over Prime?

That is the question that came to us last night during the continued hearing on HB 2023, the repeal of the LLC income tax exemption.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Americans for Prosperity all claimed in their testimony against the repeal that the state of Kansas has plenty of money and before business owners should have to pay income tax like the rest of us, the legislature should cut and cut and cut spending. It’s apparently not enough that we have essentially depleted our highway fund, robbed over $100 million from employee pensions, and cut services for Kansans with disabilities in order to give the income tax exemption to business owners, we must continue on the path of service destruction.

One of their lobbyists, in response to a question about where to cut, told the committee that it was easy to “cut the fat cap off a piece of beef, but much harder to cut the marbling.” We could not think of a better analogy!

The legislature has indeed “cut the fat cap off.” And they’ve begun digging out the marbling. What they fail to remember is that the marbling is what moves a steak from “select” to “choice” to “prime.” Any lover of a good steak knows that marbling – more of it – is what makes steak taste so good. One can look at a steak and know what grade it is by the marbling.

Kansas for years provided prime grade services from education to public safety, from highways to a social service safety net. The fat cap was cut off years ago – Kansans by their nature are fiscally conservative – but there was always enough marbling to let schools go from okay to excellent, enough marbling to make our neighboring states envious of our roads and highways, enough marbling to make life better for our seniors and those with disabilities.

The last few years, legislators have been digging out the marbling. Kansans are experiencing for the first time what no marbling tastes like. It tastes sour. Kansans want better and they started demanding better last August and again in November.

 

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LLC Loophole Repeal Is Just Step One

Jan 20, 2017 by

Post Highlights

  • Governor’s budget recommendations would fail special education maintenance of effort requirements resulting in loss of federal dollars to support those programs.
  • Motions by Representatives Rooker, Trimmer and Campbell were made to support full funding of KPERS.
  • KNEA supports repeal of LLC Loophole while recognizing that this is just one step in a much-needed comprehensive plan to create a fair and sensible tax code.
  • Brownback Secretary of Revenue, Sam Williams (former chair of Brownback’s K-12 Efficiency Task Force) promised to spend the weekend trying to discover why his own department’s fiscal notes were inaccurate- to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert came to the defense of the LLC loophole arguing that the state has more than enough revenue to provide for outstanding public services.
  • A federal report issues scathing criticism that Brownback’s KanCare program is “substantively out of compliance with federal law.”
  • House Education committee hears report from Kansas Commissioner of Education, Dr. Randy Watson regarding KansasCan campaign, state assessment changes and more.

House K-12 Budget Committee Considers Department of Ed, Schools for Deaf and Blind

After hearing budget appeals from the Kansas State Department of Education and the Schools for the Deaf and Blind yesterday, the committee today crafted their recommendations for the full Appropriations Committee.

It did not take long to come to an agreement. Notable in the testimony yesterday was the fact that the Governor’s recommendations, if enacted, would cause the state and the two special schools to miss special education maintenance of effort requirements and thus cause the state to lose federal special education dollars. One key to this problem is the Governor’s recommendation to freeze KPERS employer contributions at the 2016 level.

Under the Governor’s plan, the state would make KPERS contributions in 2017 and 2018 at the same level as 2016. In 2016, the state made only three of the four quarterly KPERS payments, instead using the last $96 million payment to patch the holes in the state budget. Governor Brownback has suggested reneging on a promise to pay the $96 million back with interest (total value is $115 million). The state is also required by statute to increase contributions annually to meet the actuarial requirements.

The Governor’s plan would mean that in 2017 and 2018 the state would not only ignore the statute on increasing contributions but would pay no more than was paid in 2016 entirely – this means another $96 million loss in 2017 and again in 2018.

Motions in committee from Representative Melissa Rooker (R-Leawood), Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield), and Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) that would recommend that the Appropriations Committee fully fund KPERS as per statute and ensure that special education maintenance of effort requirements be met.

Our thanks go out to Rooker, Trimmer, and Campbell as well as all the committee member who voted in favor of these motions.

House Tax Committee Hears Bill on LLC Repeal

The House Tax Committee today held a hearing on HB 2023, a bill that would repeal the so-called “LLC loophole” under which owners of businesses pay no state income tax at all.

KNEA supports the repeal of the LLC loophole but in this case, we testified as neutral. We believe that while the loophole must be repealed, it should be done within a comprehensive tax restructuring. The loophole only accounts for about 30% of the loss to the state treasury caused by the reckless Brownback tax policy.

Much more needs to be done in a comprehensive manner before Kansas is out of the woods.

We are suggesting that Legislators take a look at the Rise Up plan. It is currently the only plan out there that would actually move the state back to fiscal sanity by ending the “glide path to zero income taxes” and re-establishing fairness in the Kansas tax code.

Leading off in testimony last night was Secretary of Revenue Sam Williams. Williams held fast to the fantasy that the loophole was creating massive numbers of new jobs in Kansas and that Kansas was outperforming other states. The hottest time for Williams was when he was asked why the new fiscal note issued by the Department – the memo that indicates how much revenue would be raised if the loophole was repealed – was hundreds of millions of dollars below prior fiscal notes. Williams was unable to respond and told the committee he too was puzzled and would spend the weekend trying to find out why.

Former Representative Mark Hutton then appeared before the Committee to urge passage of the repeal. Hutton came to the committee as a businessman and former supporter of the LLC loophole. He is now a strong advocate of repeal as it has not resulted in any benefit but only contributed to the loss of revenue and collapse of the state budget. Hutton spent much of his time dismantling a misleading “report” authored by the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI).

Dave Trabert of the KPI made his first appearance of the session in defense of the LLC loophole. Trabert, as usual, insisted that the state had more than enough revenue to provide for outstanding state services. He acknowledged that it might be unfair that business owners don’t pay income tax while their lower-wage employees do but he was more than happy to accept that unfairness as long as there were other things in the tax code that were unfair. He suggested that KPERS employer contributions should be taxed and the Regent’s employees should have to pay taxes on their retirement benefits.

The committee members, with the exception of Rep. Ken Corbet (he is an LLC owner), appear to be ready to repeal the loophole. If they do, it would be a good first step in righting the ship. It would be wrong, however, to believe that this one step alone will do the job. It won’t.

Kansas needs a comprehensive tax restructuring if we are ever to reverse the Brownback disaster.

Brownback Handed Failing Grades on KanCare!

A scathing report has been uncovered that calls Gov. Brownback’s KanCare program which privatized Medicaid to be “substantively out of compliance with federal law.” Two letters to the Administration from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined numerous compliance issues with the program which has been highly touted by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor Colyer.

According to the Topeka Capitol-Journal, a “January 17 letter denied a request to extend a waiver – known as a section 1115 waiver — authorizing the KanCare program by a year, from the end of 2017 until the end of 2018. Kansas must formulate and implement a corrective action plan, CMS officials say.”

In typical fashion, Colyer called the letters a politically motivated attack on Governor Brownback by Obama. Yes, it’s Obama’s fault! One wonders what the excuse will be tomorrow!

Read the letters in the Topeka Capitol-Journal. http://cjonline.com/news/state-government/2017-01-19/lawmakers-furious-feel-blindsided-brownback-administration-over

House Ed Committee Hears from Dr. Watson

Dr. Randy Watson, Commissioner of Education, gave a presentation on the merits of the Kansas Department of Education campaign known as “Kansas Can.”  Citing aggregate data as well as results from the KSDE listening tour, Dr. Watson expressed to the committee a new focus on providing curriculum to students that fit within their interests and meets the needs of the future workforce. 

After his presentation, Dr. Watson stood for questions from the committee.  During this period, Representatives Crum and Stogsdill remarked that they’ve been hearing from educators and parents who are concerned about teacher shortages and the lack of respect the state has shown teachers over the last few years.  Several committee members agreed as did Dr. Watson.  KPERS stabilization, strong working conditions, and other teacher rights issues were raised as possible ways to make Kansas more attractive for teachers.  We agree too!

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