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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Brownback’s Fiscal Disaster Continues

Sep 6, 2016 by

Financial cliff or fiscal risk and dangerous challenges regarding the risk in investing and finance management pit falls with a highway in the shape of a dollar symbol on the edge of a hazardous cliff.

Kansans are unhappy with Brownback AND his legislative allies

Under the leadership of Governor Sam Brownback and the willing participation of conservative Republicans in the legislature, the state budget continues its long collapse.

Just the other day, it was revealed that tax receipts for August were off yet again; this time by $10.5 million. Nearly every month since the Brownback tax policy passed by his conservative legislative allies in 2012 took effect, collections have missed the mark. Even after Brownback and his allies passed the largest tax increase in state history, dramatically increasing sales taxes and slashing your income tax deductions, revenue continues to decline.

Last month state agencies were directed to prepare budgets showing what a 5% cut would look like. And with the August revenue collections being off once again, it’s looking more and more likely that those cuts could be a reality for agencies already reeling from the loss of funding.

And while you might think that $10.5 million is not really a lot of money in a state budget, remember that the revenue collection estimates have been repeatedly ratcheted down as collections come in below expectations.

All of this is having an impact on the Brownback allies. After being ignored by their representatives in the House and Senate, Kansas voters have decided to take matters into their own hands and in the August primary election, many of Brownback’s allies were ousted in favor of more moderate, responsible Republicans. And let’s not forget that there is another chance for voters to be heard in the November election.

Those Brownback allies still in office but facing a challenge in the November election are Senators Dennis Pyle, Steve Fitzgerald, Jim Denning, Julie Lynn, Mary Pilcher Cook, Ty Masterson, Rob Olson, Mike Petersen, and Susan Wagle and Representatives Kevin Jones, Jene Vickrey, Keith Esau, Amanda Grosserode, James Todd, Willie Dove, John Bradford, Tony Barton, Marvin Kleeb, Scott Schwab, Ron Highland, Ken Corbet, Lane Hemsley, JR Claeys, Marc Rhoades, Will Carpenter, Pete DeGraaf, Joe Scapa, John Whitmer, and Kyle Hoffman.

Voters have choices in all of those races this November and it’s beginning to look like living a life of fealty to Sam Brownback instead of to your constituents might not be good for your electoral health.

A new poll commissioned by Republican Senate Leadership is bad news for those on the above list. When asked if they would vote for a Senator who supports the Brownback agenda, 57% of voters say they would cast their ballot for the Democrat. Only 21% of voters have a favorable view of Brownback and only 19% look favorably upon the legislature – the legislature that has blindly followed Brownback down the path to fiscal collapse. A full 75% of voters called the Brownback tax plan unfair.

Voters were asked which issues were of greatest importance to them. Leading the pack was K-12 education, the number one issue for 35% of voters. Tied for second place at 15% were state government spending and job creation.

You can read all about the poll in a Topeka Capital-Journal article. Click here.



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