Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed the bill stripping her of emergency management powers and has vetoed two more bills passed after midnight during the sine die session.
One such bill was House Bill 2702 which contained a number of property tax changes. Her veto statement focused on the portion of the bill that prohibits cities and counties from assessing interest and penalties on late property tax payments until August 10. She said this about that provision: “…allowing property tax payments to be made as late as August 10, 2020, with no penalties or interest, House Bill 2702 would potentially deprive local governments of essential funding at a time it is needed the most. Local governments cannot meet increased demand for police, fire, emergency medical, and other services if a primary funding source for local governments is withdrawn.”
House Bill 2702 also contained a highly controversial provision that was strongly opposed by municipalities. Under that provision, if a mill levy would raise more revenue in a new year, the municipality could not use that revenue unless they instituted a number of provisions that would have made it very difficult to access the funds. It was, in essence, a severe limitation on the use of local tax dollars and would ultimately have compromised the ability of cities and counties to provide for police and fire protection, road maintenance, and other important local services.
Governor Kelly also vetoed House Bill 2619 which would provide loans to small businesses using money left over from a program implemented during the Great Recession. The bill would have cost the state $60 million. In her veto statement, the Governor had this to say about this provision: “I support efforts to provide economic relief to Kansas small businesses and agricultural producers who have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, federal funding made available to Kansas through the CARES Act is a more appropriate funding source for this effort. With a $1.3 billion budget shortfall looming, we must protect every state resource at our disposal to make ends meet in the months ahead, including earnings from the state’s investment portfolio.”
The Governor also vetoed House Bill 2510, the education bill. The provisions in the bill were generally non-controversial and broadly supported but, again, the bill spent state money on programs that were not related to the current crisis at the same time the state is struggling with a budget shortfall. In her veto statement, Governor Kelly said, “Although well-intentioned, House Bill 2510 as a whole would annually deplete millions from state funds at a time when Kansas faces a $1.3 billion budget shortfall. I cannot in good conscience sign a bill establishing a new discretionary spending program that is unrelated to Kansas COVID-19 response efforts when such severe financial strain looms in the months ahead.”
House Bill 2052 also included data collection and reporting on the success of foster children in the school system. This is the provision many in the press seem to be focusing on. In her statement, Governor Kelly addressed her support of efforts to “focus on preserving the foster care programs and services already in place.”
We will be watching for what response legislators may make when they return for the special session on Wednesday, June 3.