Senate Kills Gov’s Tax Bill; Then There’s Guns, Vouchers, and Efficiencies

Mar 8, 2017 by

Brownback’s Tax Bill Goes Down in Flames

The Senate yesterday debated Governor Brownback’s tax proposal (SB 175) which would simply raise alcohol and tobacco taxes and increase registration fees on businesses in a hopeless attempt to get out of the massive budget hole created by his reckless tax cuts.

The Senate clearly recognized this and killed the bill by passing an amendment to strike the enacting clause on a vote of 37 -1. The enacting clause indicates when the bill would become law and by removing the clause, the underlying bill can never become law. The motion is the equivalent of killing the bill.

One would think that this action would send a clear message to the Governor that the Senate, like the House, wants tax reform that brings Kansas back from the edge. Of course, the Governor is sticking to his failed policies like a pit bull on a rib bone.

This vote moves the Senate to consideration of a better tax reform bill and that’s the good news.

House Committee to Talk Guns on Campus Tomorrow

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing HB 2220, a bill that would prohibit post-secondary institutions from adopting any policies governing concealed weapons on campus. This is the opposite of earlier attempts to allow those institutions to prohibit firearms on campus.

HB 2220 essentially makes college campuses wild west institutions where anyone can do whatever they want with firearms. Under this bill, no campus could restrict where guns were permitted or who could carry them. Campuses would be completely unregulated when it came to firearms.

KNEA opposes this bill and has called for the passage of legislation to allow colleges to make these decisions.

K-12 Budget Committee to Take Up Radical Expansion of Tuition Tax Credits (i.e. Vouchers)

On Friday, the K-12 Education Budget Committee will hold a hearing on HB 2374, a bill expanding the corporate tuition tax credit program. Under current law the state allows corporations to pay the tuition of at-risk children in Title 1 schools to attend a private school. The corporation gets a 90% tax credit for this. That means the state is giving away $10 million in taxpayer money to send a few kids to unaccountable private school.

We are always fascinated by legislators and lobbyists like Dave Trabert who continually demand more and more accountability and testing in public schools but are perfectly okay sending millions of dollars to unaccredited private schools that report no results to the state at all. But then, we’ve been here a long time and hypocrisy should not surprise us.

At a time when the Court has determined that our public schools are not adequately funded and that many in the legislature are still calling for cuts to public education; at a time when the state faces a two-year budget hole of over $800 million, it is irresponsible to continue to give away tax money for which there is no accountability whatsoever. The best thing for the legislature to do at this time is to simply repeal the program entirely and put that $10 million back in the budget where it belongs to serve all Kansans.

School District Purchasing, Health Care Consolidation Discussion

Last week Secretary of Administration Sarah Shipman called together education stakeholder groups to discuss two of the “efficiency” recommendations that were included as part of the Governor’s budget this year.

Brownback included a requirement that all school districts centralize purchasing through the Department of Administration. State agencies currently use this system and the Alvarez and Marsal efficiency study had suggested that there would be significant savings to the state if school districts joined.

He also included an A&M recommendation that school districts consolidate into one health insurance plan like the State Employees Health Plan.

Bills were filed that would accomplish both of these requirements.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee was skeptical about the potential savings and asked Secretary Shipman to bring people together to discuss both issues and come up with recommendations.

KNEA joined KASB, USA/Kansas, the Wichita schools, and Greenbush at the meeting. Also present was the anti-government Kansas Policy Institute.

Today Secretary Shipman reported on the results of the meeting to the committee. In short, the recommendation was that the negatives far outweighed the positives and that there was no way to deliver any savings in 2018 even if the bills were passed.

Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) announced that he would not work the bills but instead let them lie until next year. He will also report to the Appropriations Committee that the bills would not have saved any revenue in 2018.

Representative Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) also pointed out that neither bill would provide a penny of savings to the state unless the legislature reduced school funding by an amount equivalent to the savings instead of letting any savings be redirected to classroom programs.



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Appropriations Committee Meets; Reviews the Bad News

Apr 24, 2015 by

The Appropriations Committee heard lots of bad news yesterday in a meeting leading up to the April 29 return of the full Legislature.

They reviewed the fiscal profile for the state for the 2015, 2016, and 2017 fiscal years as well as the April consensus revenue estimates and the Governor’s resulting budget amendment.

The fiscal profile (click here to see the latest one) shows the state ending FY 2015 with a $69.3 million balance but then needing come up with $131.4 million in FY 2016 and another $80.5 million in FY 2016. The problem with the profile is that it looks better than it actually is. You see, the Research Department puts the profile together with the assumption that the Governor’s revenue adjustments and tax increases as proposed in January will pass. And so far, the Legislature has expressed no interest in passing any of the Governor’s tax increases – he has proposed liquor and tobacco increases as well as a tax on HMOs. All are getting enormous pushback from Legislators, trade organizations, and insurance providers. The Governor’s usual allies have even gone on the air opposing his tax proposals.

The actual budget hole, after the consensus revenue estimating group examined the state’s fiscal condition in detail last week, reveals an $800 million shortfall – a shortfall courtesy of the Governor’s reckless income tax cuts of 2012 and 2013. Read an excellent review of the issue in the Topeka Capital Journal by clicking here.

When revenue comes up short, the Governor is supposed to issue a “Governor’s Budget Amendment” to deal with the shortfall. Remember that, under the constitution, Kansas cannot have a budget deficit. Normally, the Governor would propose a combination of tax increases, money shifts, and budget cuts to balance the budget. But the GBA released by Governor Brownback does not include enough changes to actually balance the budget. The GBA manages to find only about $72 million to put towards the problem.

Democratic Senator Laura Kelly, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, put this action in perspective. As quoted in the Capital Journal, Kelly said, ““Surprise, surprise. He wants us to do it. He wants the Legislature to make the hard decisions, to take the tough votes. The only way to do this is by tax increases.”

As we approach the start of the wrap-up session, it appears that the budget is in a deep hole, the Governor is not proposing a solution to fill that hole, and the political allies of the Governor and conservative majority are on the attack demanding that there be no tax increases at all. This should make for a very lively wrap-up session!

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