Senate Rejects Another Tax Plan

Jun 2, 2015 by

Yet Another Plan Goes Down

After Sunday night’s defeat of the Abrams amendment to HB 2109 (the Senate tax bill), Senate leadership regrouped and on Monday brought forth a new amendment based on the Governor’s tax proposal.

The plan, carried by Tax Committee Chairman Les Donovan (R-Wichita), contained the following:

  • The itemized deduction proposal – repealing all but charitable contributions, home mortgage interest, and property taxes paid with the latter two at 50%.
  • Taxing the “guaranteed payments” in income tax exempt businesses (governor’s proposal).
  • Freezing the income tax rates through tax year 2017, dropping them to 2.0/4.1% in 2018 and 2019; and 1.9/3.8% in tax year 2020.
  • Raising the threshold under which one would owe no income taxes (governor’s proposal)
  • Repeal the remaining food sales tax exemption.
  • Raise sales tax on everything to 6.5% on July 1; drop the sales tax on food to 6.0% on Jan. 1.
  • The tax amnesty program.
  • Increase cigarette tax by $0.50/pack.
  • Tax e-cigarettes at $0.20/ml.
  • Assume the MCO fee increase.

Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) asked that the amendment be divided into three parts. Part A would be raising the threshold under which one would owe no income taxes (governor’s proposal); part B would be the sales tax provisions; part C would contain the remainder of the amendments.

Part A, exempting some of the lowest income Kansans from paying income taxes, passed on a vote of 33 to 4 with only Abrams, Donovan, Ostmeyer, and Smith voting NO. Francisco did not vote; Arpke and Wilborn were absent.

The next vote was on the sales tax increases. The tax increases failed on a vote of 8 to 30 with only Donovan, Holmes, Kerschen, King, Longbine, Olson, Powell, and Wagle voting YES.

The third part, which was everything else in the above list was voted down on a voice vote.

The Senate then adjourned for the day to return today at 10:00 am.

Senate again adopts HB 2353

Earlier both the House and Senate had adopted HB 2353, the bill containing clean-up fixes to the block grant bill, SB 7, and the education community’s PNA consensus bill.

It was discovered later that there was an error in the drafting of the bill that had to be fixed so both chambers brought the bill back up and formed a conference committee to fix the error. This was accomplished during a meeting at the rail. No changes were made to the PNA provisions.

Yesterday the Senate adopted the conference committee report. Now it only needs to be adopted by the House.

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Elections Moved; PNA Changed; Stalemate Broken; All in Lead-Up to 4-Day Weekend

May 21, 2015 by

House Approves Bill Moving Local Elections to November

Today the House approved HB 2104, the bill moving local elections including school board elections to November of odd numbered years. The elections would remain non-partisan.

The bill originated as an attempt to put local elections on the same calendar as state and federal elections – November of even numbered years – and to make those races partisan. Candidates for city commissions, school boards and other local offices would have had to file by party and participate in the August primary elections. Senator Mitch Holmes (R-St. John), when announcing the bill early in the session, indicated that it would be a way to wrest power away from the KNEA. Holmes believes that teachers voting in low turn-out races means the union controls the school board. This argument was raised on the House floor today by Rep. Kiegerl (R-Olathe).

The bill now goes to the Governor.

Senate Works School Bill, Attaches PNA Changes

The Senate today debated Senate Sub for HB 2353, a bill that provides for some clean-up of issues in the block grant bill, SB 7.

Clean-up language was needed for some issues over virtual schools (out-of-state students were being funded) as well as changes to a few other funds.

An amendment was offered by Senator Abrams (R-Arkansas City) that would put changes to the professional negotiations act into the bill. Abrams moved to add the bill passed earlier by the Senate that reflects the agreement reached by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA. Under this provision, beginning next year associations and school boards would bargain salaries and hours every year and each side would be able to pick up to three additional items from the current list of negotiable items. All other items could be negotiated by mutual agreement.

The amendment also changes the notice date to March 31 and the impasse date to July 31.

KNEA supports the amendment and the bill. It now goes to the House for a vote to concur or non-concur. The House may not amend the bill further.

Budget Negotiations Ongoing

The budget conference committee (House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means) continues to meet and will be doing so late today.

At an earlier meeting today, the stalemate over funding the gap in the 20 mill property tax levy for schools (see yesterday’s report) may have broken. The new plan is to fund the $17.5 million for FY 2016 and wait to decide on the $13 million for FY 2017 until new revenue numbers come in.

Tax Bill Pulled in Senate

Senate Sub for HB 2109, the tax bill that came out of the Senate Tax Committee and was based on a proposal from Senator Donovan (R-Wichita), had been scheduled for debate today but was pulled at the last minute by leadership. There could be many reasons for this; perhaps there were not enough votes to pass it, perhaps amendments were being drawn up. Word is the bill will be back on the calendar for debate next Wednesday.

The House Tax Committee is expected to continue work next Tuesday in an attempt to craft a bill for their chamber to consider.

Four Day Weekend

Both chambers have adjourned for the holiday weekend and will be returning to Topeka on Tuesday of next week. They won’t be paid for those days for those of you following the overtime spending.

This would be a great weekend to connect with your legislators and urge them to get moving on resolving the state’s revenue crisis and funding our schools.

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Revenue continuing to collapse!

Apr 21, 2015 by

Brownback tax policy is NOT working!

In what’s become a routine event, the latest revenue estimates for Kansas were released yesterday and the news was bad.

Estimates were once again ratcheted down – this time by a whopping $98.1 million for FY 2016 and another $100.8 million for FY 2017.

And as the budget hole continues to grow, Governor Brownback and his Budget Director Shawn Sullivan are making it clear that they have no intention of reversing the reckless tax plan passed in 2012.

Legislative leaders already had a big budget hole to fill (about $200 million) in order to meet the budget they crafted before the break. That hole doubles with this estimate. Brownback had proposed about $210 million in tax increases (slowing the reductions in income tax cuts and raising taxes on tobacco and liquor). It is clear now that, even if his allies in the legislature went along with this plan (and they show no intentions of doing so), the budget would require an additional $200 million in tax increases or budget cuts to balance.

In remarks after the release of the estimates, Speaker Ray Merrick and House Tax Chair Marvin Kleeb both implied that K-12 cuts were off the table. Of course, K-12 combined with medicaid and other social service programs makes up about 70% of the budget so it is hard to imagine how the remaining state programs could absorb a cut of that magnitude.

Democratic Senate Leader Anthony Hensley put it best when he said, “These numbers mean that the budget will be unfairly balanced by raising taxes on low and middle income Kansans while protecting wealthy Kansans who benefit from Brownback’s income tax cuts.”

Even before these grim numbers came in, school districts have been challenged this year as the Governor’s block grant school funding plan has cut revenue to most school districts. A number of school districts have made decisions to cut the school year short to save money. Several have applied for emergency aid from the block grant bill’s special “emergency fund.” Skyline Schools in Pratt have asked for money just to meet payroll after being hit with a number of emergencies that dried up their savings including the failure of their HVAC system.

Your legislators are home until April 29 when they return for the wrap-up session. This would be a great time to visit with them and ask what actions they are willing to take to save Kansas from collapse and to protect K-12 and higher education, roads and highways, public safety, and the social service safety net.

We are beyond tinkering with the Governor’s tax wreck. It’s time to reverse the reckless income tax cuts put in place in 2012.

You can see the details of the latest revenue collapse by clicking here.

The Lawrence Journal-World has a good article on the release of the estimates including a chart showing revenue collection changes over time. Click here.

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Approaching Drop Dead Day

Mar 27, 2015 by

Payroll Deduction, PEERA Bill Now in Ways & Means

House Bill 2096, the bill crafted by the Senate Commerce Committee that contains SB 179 dismantling collective bargaining for state and municipal employees and SB 212 banning the use of payroll deduction by public employees (including school employees) for any voluntary deductions.

There was an attempt on the Senate floor to limit the ban on voluntary deductions to only voluntary deductions for union or association dues. That attempt failed. The bill was then passed over on the floor and later referred by leadership back to the Ways and Means Committee.

The bill now sits in the Committee where it could be worked and sent back to the floor. It is also possible that it will simply stay there and remain available until the end of the 2016 Legislative Session.

We will continue monitoring the bill.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hear Bill on Reclassifying State Employees

House Bill 2391 passed the House and is now in the Senate Commerce Committee. There will be a hearing on this bill on Tuesday of next week.

HB 2391 contains the Governor’s proposal to move more state employees into unclassified positions. Such a move would enable government agencies to more easily terminate employees who would no longer be under the collective bargaining agreement. Critics believe this bill will open up public employees to political decisions including being let go for a lack of support for the administration’s legislative positions.

We will continue to watch this highly controversial bill.

Out of Sight; Out of Mind

Perhaps that’s what Governor Brownback was thinking when he quietly gathered his staunchest legislative allies and signed SB 7, the repeal of the school finance formula, in a closed ceremony.

The signing was not announced and no reporters were permitted access to the event. The signing was announced in a press release later.

Normally, bill signings are treated like real ceremonies where the Governor greets the press and tries to secure positive press reporting. Columnists have speculated that the Governor either did not want to answer difficult questions from the press or be asked about his support for bill opposed by nearly everyone involved in public education. The only support for the bill in hearings came from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Policy Institute, and the Tea Party-aligned Kansans for Liberty.

Conference Committees and Floor Time

Next week it will be mostly conference committees and floor debates as the Legislature works its way towards April 3 – Drop Dead Day. This is the date by which all legislation – with the exception of the big budget and revenue bills – be passed, killed, or deferred until next year.

The Legislature will be on break from April 4 through April 28, returning for the annual “veto session” on April 29.

We, too, will not be posting daily until the return. Look for occasional postings until then.

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Senate Passes Repeal of School Finance Formula

Mar 16, 2015 by

The Senate has just passed the block grant bill that repeals the current school finance formula. The biggest decision of the session – the funding of our public education system – was ramrodded through the legislative process in just seven legislative days. The process denied Senators the opportunity to offer amendments; they could only debate and question.

The vote was 25 to 14. Senators Pyle and Knox had initially passed but changed their votes to YES. Senator O’Donnell is out of state.

The bill now goes to the Governor for his consideration. No one doubts that he will sign it.

We will report the actual voting record when it becomes available tomorrow.

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