Windfall? Not Really. & Kansas Teacher of the Year Team Visits Legislators

Jan 29, 2019 by

Fiscal note on SB 22, tax cut bill, is out … and it’s a doozy!

The fiscal note for SB 22, the so-called “windfall” tax bill being pushed by Senate President Wagle (R-Wichita) is out and it’s big. Passage of SB 22 would strip about $400 million out of the state treasury in three years – $191 million in 2020 alone.

The issue is relatively simple to understand. When Congress, with the full support of all six conservative Republican members of the Kansas delegation, passed the Trump tax bill they simply ignored the fact that their huge tax break for the wealthy would result in a state tax hike for average Kansans. By raising the standard deduction in the federal tax code, they wiped out itemization for most middle-income taxpayers. And since the state and federal codes are “coupled,” that means that if you can’t itemize on your federal taxes, you can’t itemize on your state taxes. Thus state taxes for most middle-income earners went up.

The Department of Revenue released three hypothetical Kansas taxpayers (married filing jointly with 2 children and a federal adjusted gross income of $120,000; married filing jointly with no children and a federal AGI of $60,000; and married filing jointly with one child and a federal AGI of $60,000). In those three scenarios, the first taxpayer with the AGI of $120,000 saw an increase of $39 in state taxes due to the federal law while the other two saw an increase of $12. That state tax increase was not passed by the Kansas legislature but instead by Trump and the congressional Republicans.

Kansas Republicans are aghast and seek to immediately decouple from the federal tax code to prevent this increase. Wagle wants to do this so quickly that she formed a special committee in the Senate naming herself as chair to get it out of committee this week. Today the Kansas Chamber and some corporate tax advisers talked to the committee about provisions in the bill that would exempt corporations from paying state taxes on overseas earnings that are “repatriated” to the U.S.

KNEA is neutral on the policy – whether or not to adjust the Kansas tax code to deal with the unintended consequences of rushed tax changes by Congress is a decision the Legislature should debate. But we are not neutral on the impact. If a bill is passed that strips nearly $200 million out of the treasury in one year with more than $100 million per year lost in the following two years, how does the Legislature plan to pass a responsible budget that funds our schools and restores service cuts across agencies? And perhaps that is the point.

We all know what happens when tax policy is done in a rush! Trump and his supporters in the House and Senate in Congress rammed through their tax bill without having any idea of its impact and the harm it might do to middle income taxpayers. Sam Brownback and his allies rammed through a tax bill in 2012 that brought Kansas to the brink of collapse.

So here’s our plea. Stop the rush! Be deliberate; consider the consequences of each change; look for alternative ways to address the issue without decoupling. Try exercising a little restraint. SB 22 will strip too much money out of the Kansas treasury while we are still in recovery from the Brownback disaster.

Kansas Teacher of the Year Team 2019

KTOY Team 2019

As today was “Kansas Day,” it was a perfect time to celebrate all that makes our state great, including the dedicated professionals who work so hard to make sure our kids are safe, learning and growing in our public school classrooms. The 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year team is recognized for its members’ outstanding contributions to their students, but also works to be a strong voice for educators during the year. Today, the team addressed a joint House and Senate Education Committee to bring both their optimism and concerns before our state representatives.

2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Whitney Morgan

The 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Whitney Morgan shared some of what she believes would be beneficial for students including embracing diversity, targeted interventions, smaller class sizes and professional development. Whitney teaches English and English for speakers of other languages in Kansas City, Kansas.

Team member Sharon Kuchinski, a high school social studies teacher from Leavenworth, gave some very strong testimony over concerns for the difficulty our state is facing attracting new teachers to the profession, particularly when many teachers- but certainly early career educators- are faced with working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

We applaud the Kansas Teacher of the Year team for their efforts and advocacy. The team will continue to meet with various groups throughout the state, including Kansas NEA, to share their insights throughout the coming days and weeks. We look forward to hearing and learning from them.

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Of Taxes, College Credits, and the Sad Case of Foreign Languages

Jan 28, 2019 by

Tax decoupling on the Senate fast track

There’s been quite a tax kerfuffle in the Senate. Tax Committee chair Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) appeared to have fast tracked a tax giveaway bill – the so-called “windfall” bill. Her intent was to decouple part of the Kansas income tax code from the federal income tax code. 

When Congress adopted the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the changes they made to the code would prevent many middle income Americans from itemizing deductions and instead taking a higher standard deduction. But since the state code and federal code are “coupled,” itemization would go away for most Kansans but without the benefit of a higher Kansas standard deduction. Thus some Kansans would see their state income taxes go up. 

This additional tax revenue is being portrayed as a “windfall” to the state that the state never planned on getting. Republican conservatives are crying foul and demanding that the state give this revenue back to the taxpayers (and conveniently forgetting that the entire Kansas Republican Congressional Delegation gleefully voted for the Trump tax changes). 

So here’s where things get sticky. Tyson’s bill also included a number of other tax changes not related to the income tax changes. Then Tyson invited the Kansas Chamber to present their wishlist of tax changes to benefit corporations. These are tied up largely in two complex provisions dealing with overseas earnings – the GILTI provision and the Repatriation provision. 

It was clear that Tyson intended to put the corporate tax revisions into the bill which would further clutter up the package. 

And, that’s when Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) stepped in. Wagle apparently wanted to go in a slightly different direction and so she formed a new committee to deal specifically with federal tax implications naming herself as Chair – The Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Implementation.

Speculation is that Wagle wants the decoupling for itemized deductions and the GILTI and Repatriation provisions requested by the Chamber but doesn’t want them jumbled up with a bunch of unrelated provisions. Some say Tyson disagreed, wanting to push her bigger tax bill. 

That’s where things sit right now. And Wagle’s Select Committee will be meeting Tuesday through Thursday this week to hear SB 22, the bill decoupling from the federal tax code. The plan is to have final action by the Committee on Thursday.

The Governor is opposed to the decoupling at this time, urging the Legislature to go slowly on tax issues. No one has yet been able to accurately determine the impact of the decoupling and Kelly is suggesting that until that can be done – possibly this summer – there should be no changes as those changes could have a significantly negative impact on the state budget.

Meanwhile, the House Tax Committee, instead of rushing into the abyss, are engaged in thoughtful discussions about the actual impact of the federal tax changes on Kansas taxpayers, whether or not there is an alternative to decoupling that would accomplish the same thing, and what the fiscal impact of each option might be.

More tax issues being discussed

The House Tax Committee moved on to discussing new options on the collection of internet sales taxes.

This discussion is the result of a recent US Supreme Court decision that changes the standard for collection of sales taxes on internet sales. In the past, under a decision called the “Quill Decision,” sales taxes on internet sales were required only if the the seller had a physical presence in the state. This new decision – the “Wayfair Decision” – overturns the physical requirement and says physical presence or economic presence counts.

States are adopting a minimum sales threshold under which an internet sales provider would be required to collect destination sales taxes. Most states have adopted $100,000 in sales as the threshold; some have an either/or situation – either $100,000 in sales or 200 sales transactions in the state. Also in this discussion is how to handle the sale of digital properties like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc.

The Kansas legislature will likely take this matter up.

Concurrent enrollment discussion in K-12 Budget Committee

A discussion in a meeting of the House K-12 Budget Committee focused primarily on the issue of concurrent enrollment programs for Kansas high school students.  Dr. Blake Flanders, President and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, joined Kansas Commissioner of Education, Randy Watson to present a plan to grow the current program.  Both presenters extolled the virtues of attainable post-secondary programs and the impact those graduates have upon the Kansas job market, salary growth and overall growth of economic prosperity.  

By growing the concurrent enrollment program, along with other pathways to post-secondary opportunities, more students in all parts of Kansas can seek certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Under this program, teachers of concurrent enrollment courses would be employed and paid by the district while the post-secondary partner institution- typically a community college- would receive funding for tuition, books and supplies for each enrolled program student.  The tuition fee- paid through an allocation of state dollars to this program- would be approximately $275 per course.  

Both the committee chairperson, Representative Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Vice-Chair Representative Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), had questions regarding the funding amounts, who would be paid (the district or the college) and why this program would- in effect- be akin to double paying for students.  The funding amount- per enrolled student- is the median of a range of tuition amounts from ongoing programs throughout the state.  Dr. Flanders indicated that it would be the institution that would receive the funds under this program but that local agreements with districts could push portions of those funds back to the district. 

Are foreign language studies disappearing?

Last week we were sitting the House K-12 Budget Committee listening to a discussion on school performance and the Kansas school accreditation system. At one point Chairperson Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) commented on the importance of foreign language instruction. As Kansas educators know the value of studying foreign languages, we were pleased and surprised to hear a representative mention a subject other than STEM subjects.

But today we came across an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reporting that from 2013 to 2016, colleges in the United States lost 651 foreign language programs (among those were 118 Spanish programs, 129 in French, 86 in German, and 56 in Italian). By comparison, only one program was lost between 2009 and 2013.

Given the global world in which we operate and in which today’s young people will compete, we hope this is an anomaly and not a trend but expectations are that the decline will continue into 2020.

You can read the article in the Chronicle by clicking here.

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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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Legislature Jumping Right In

Jan 16, 2019 by

It’s not usual for us to have four committee meetings to attend on the first day of the session – often it’s not usual to have four on any day of the first week. But not so this year. We’ve been in the statehouse all day today!

First big tax bill

First up was a meeting of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee where they planned an informational hearing on a bill, SB 13. Informational briefings are often held before a bill has been officially referred to a committee in order to get a jump start on learning the issue.

SB 13 is a new version of CCR 2228 which was defeated at the very end of the 2018 session. This so-called “windfall” bill has a number of parts in it but the most talked about has been a provision decoupling part of the Kansas income tax code from the federal income tax code.

When the Trump/Ryan tax reform bill was passed at the federal level, it was aimed at tax relief primarily for the highest earners. It ended itemized deductions for many taxpayers by putting in a restriction tying itemization to a certain percentage of income. Since most people don’t hit those thresholds, they essentially can no longer itemize. And since the Kansas tax code is coupled to the federal code, the same thing applies to state income taxes. If one can no longer itemize on their federal taxes, one can’t itemize on state taxes.

Many middle income taxpayers who could itemize in the past can no longer do so and as a result, they may have seen an actual increase in taxes or, at best, saw no benefit from the federal law.

If SB 13 were to pass, these taxpayers could once again itemize deductions on their state income tax forms. Unfortunately, as tax relief goes, this would benefit few Kansans – it is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 25% of Kansas taxpayers were itemizing before the change. Certainly, the highest income Kansans were itemizing and continue to do so now. Itemization tends to benefit higher earners and as incomes decline, so does the ability to itemize deductions. While this change will provide some relief to those taxpayers who were itemizing and lost the ability, it would also have a significant fiscal impact on the state tax revenues.

Since five of the nine members of the Committee are co-sponsors of the bill, we would expect it would have an easy time in committee.

Gannon is topic in two committees

Revisors (the folks who write statutes for the Legislature) gave presentations in the Senate Education Committee and the House K-12 Budget Committee today.

Essentially, these presentations are intended to bring the committee members up to speed on how school finance got to the point it is today and what the Supreme Court ruled in their most recent finding. Essentially, the Court found no problems with the structure of the school finance formula but still called the funding inadequate but only because it did not account for inflation in the years during which the funding is to be phased in.

Committees Getting First Briefings on the State of Kansas Revenues and the Budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee was the first to receive an update on the status of the state’s budget and predictions about revenue collections.

So far, things are looking stable with ending balances available for several years. But as if to remind us of the need to stay the course on maintaining and managing our revenue stream, they noted that by 2022, we could be back to a 0% ending balance.

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Sykes and Clayton Join the Democrats in Topeka!

Dec 19, 2018 by

Dinah Sykes (L), Stephanie Clayton (R)

Two more incumbent Kansas Republican legislators have decided to leave the Republican Party, register as Democrats and join the Democratic caucuses in the Statehouse.

As you already know, Senator Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills), left the Republican Party earlier this month and joined the Democrats. Bollier had angered Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) by endorsing Democrat Tom Niermann for US House District 3 over Kevin Yoder and Democrat Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach for Governor. Wagle stripped Bollier of her leadership position on the Health and Human Services Committee (Bollier is the only physician serving in the Senate) and publicly chastised her.

Today it was announced that Senator Dinah Sykes has also left the Republicans and joined the Democratic Party. Sykes is from Lenexa and represents Senate District 21.

Both Sykes and Bollier have been stalwart supporters of public schools, children, and public school educators. Both also held Republican seats on the Senate Education Committee. Bollier served in the House from 2010 through 2016 before being elected to the Senate in 2016. Sykes was elected to the Senate in 2016. She ran on a promise to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and fund public schools. Bollier and Sykes have both kept their promises to voters and to our public schools.

Sykes summed up her thoughts in a press release announcing her decision:

“I strongly believe elected officials should serve the people they represent. That belief drove me to run for office. I ran for the Kansas Senate to protect the Kansas quality of life and to bring common sense to Topeka. At this time, I feel like I can either fight to change the Republican party or fight for the state I love and the people I serve. I think I can better serve my state and constituents as a member of the Democratic party.”

“I am a moderate person who represents a moderate and pragmatic district that expects me to focus on issues and solutions that impact their day-to-day lives. Increasingly, I see the Republican party focusing on issues and approaches that divide our country. I do not agree with that approach.”

In welcoming Senator Sykes to the Democratic caucus, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) said, “Senator Sykes is a commonsense leader who serves with the best interests of her constituents in mind, no matter the party label. She will be a great addition to our caucus.”

And across the rotunda…

Also this morning, State Representative Stephanie Clayton announced her switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Clayton is from Overland Park and represents HD 19.

Clayton made it clear in a press release announcing her decision that public education was front and center in her thinking. Said Clayton, “I first ran for office in 2010, when my daughter was in first grade, because of the lack of stable funding for public education. Leaders in the Kansas House and Senate have now indicated that they will seek to scrap the bipartisan education plan achieved over the last two years, just as we are so close to solving this problem and ending the cycle of school litigation.”

Clayton has been noted for her bipartisan work and was an organizer and leader of the bipartisan “Women’s Caucus”, which moved the agenda on comprehensive tax reform in the 2017 legislative session. It was that work that pushed the legislature to finally adopt a tax bill that reversed the failed Brownback experiment and set the state on the path to fiscal stability.

In welcoming Representative Clayton into the Democratic House Caucus, Minority Leader-elect Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita) said, “Rep. Clayton will be welcomed into the House Democratic Caucus. We have continuously worked with her on important issues such as education and healthcare, and look forward to working alongside Stephanie as a member of our caucus. She is a public servant with incredibly impressive passion, grit, and drive to do the right thing for Kansans.”

These changes put the Senate at 11 Democrats, 28 Republicans, and 1 Independent; the House is now 41 Democrats and 84 Republicans.

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Cast your vote like it is the most important one. Because it just might be.

Oct 5, 2018 by

The race for Kansas Governor to determine if we free-fall back into the Brownback policies that brought ruin upon our schools and our state (and made him the least popular Governor in America) OR if we move forward with common sense policies that support our constitution, our schools, and our students- has been and continues to be a dead heat.  This week, the Kobach campaign is pulling out all the stops to energize their extreme-right base to vote as President Donald Trump will be taking time away from federal investigators to host a campaign rally in Topeka.

Speaking of the Trump / MAGA / Kobach rally, we’ve been asked what’s the best way to counter the anti-public education, anti-worker, anti-civility message President Trump will likely bring with him on Saturday.  The answer is astonishingly simple.  Vote.

The purpose of a rally like the one we’ll be hearing about on Saturday is three-fold.

First, it is an effort to energize the conservative base of voters to get out and vote for two highly toxic candidates.  Kobach’s polling has consistently shown that his overall UNFAVORABILITY is higher than his favorability.  Not surprising given that he’s promised to double-down on Brownback’s ruinous policies.  On the federal ticket, President Trump is also expected to endorse Watkins over Paul Davis as a last-ditch effort to convince voters that Watkins didn’t deserve the attacks leaders in his own party levied against him during the primary season- calling him a charlatan and a phony.  The problem is, it turns out he is exactly what they claimed, a phony.  Instead of the “high-adventure hero” he has claimed to be, Watkins’ highest adventure might be leaving one of his residences in Alaska to take a trip to Kansas- you know the state he wants to represent but allegedly doesn’t reside in.

Second, Trump’s rally is an effort to dominate the media cycle for his endorsed candidates.  He wants to draw attention away from the real issues and real solutions the opponents of Kobach and Watkins are addressing with potential voters.  The simple fact is, this event will dominate the media cycle.  Efforts to piggy-back that cycle with counter-activities would come at a great expense while pulling focus towards the circus rather than the real issues at stake during this election season.  CLICK HERE to view alternatives to the Trump rally.

Third, speaking of pulling focus, the energy spent on counter-activities might energize some voters who may have been waiting for a reason to get involved.  While that’s certainly not a bad thing, spending time, energy and money trying to out-shout Trump zealots, is probably futile.  Take a look at the most recent polling data in the image above. The most important data in the poll is that 15% of likely Kansas voters are undecided.  Instead of spending time trying to convince those Trump zealots that they’re wrong, we encourage you to work Saturday (and every day until election day), to convince those undecided voters that there is only one candidate for Governor who supports public education, ALL students, and our constitution.  That candidate is Laura Kelly.

One final thought.  We’re hearing from members and non-members that they’re worried about voter-turnout during the mid-terms because they know that candidates like Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach get elected in Kansas when voter turnout is low.  Their worry is justifiable, and that’s why Kris Kobach has worked so hard to disenfranchise voters and to make registering to vote and the act of voting difficult and frightening for people of color and people whose priorities are living day to day.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  You can register to vote right now.  You can apply for an advance ballot to vote by mail from home right now.  You can encourage and assist 5, 10, or 50 others to vote right now.  The only real question and the only real reason for worry is, will you?

KPAC Withdraws Recommendation in HD 15

There has been wide reporting in the news media that Chris Haulmark, a candidate for Kansas House of Representatives District 15, has been accused of abusive relationships with women over a number of years and as late as 2017.

Haulmark has denied many of the specific allegations but admits that he has had a history of troubled relationships with women exacerbated by anger issues. Haulmark has sought intensive therapy in dealing with these issues.

KNEA leaders and members of the Kansas NEA PAC have determined that there is doubt as to whether or not Mr. Haulmark has the temperament to serve in such an important position. To that end, the Kansas NEA PAC has decided to withdraw its recommendation of Mr. Haulmark for election to the Kansas House.

We sincerely hope that Mr. Haulmark continues to seek help with these issues and can build healthy and respectful relationships in the future. Additionally, we hope that the victims of abuse receive support services to assist them in dealing with the trauma of abuse.

To read more about this issue and the allegations, we would refer you to this report in the Kansas City Star.

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