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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Up Tomorrow: Your Paycheck; Block Grants; Teacher of the Year Repeal

Mar 11, 2015 by

Senate Committee hears bill to end collective bargaining for state, municipal employees

This morning the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on SB 179, a bill that dismantles the Kansas Public Employee Employer Relations Act (PEERA). PEERA is the law regarding collective bargaining for public employees other than teachers. Teachers are covered under the Professional Negotiations Act.

SB 179 would allow public employees to negotiation only minimum salaries, eliminate the Public Employee Relations Board, ban mediation and fact finding, and put whether or not a municipality could bargain with employees to a public referendum.

KNEA joins other public employee organizations in opposing this bill.

In a show of just how Committee Chair feels about the bill, the three proponents were allowed 20 minutes of time to address the committee while opponents were allowed one minute each. We wonder if you can guess who were the proponents?

Tomorrow the same Committee will hold a hearing on SB 212, a bill that will prohibit public employees from using payroll deduction to pay Association or Union dues. They laughingly call this “Strengthening Protection of Public Employee Paychecks Act” because, as you know, public employees must be protected from themselves and who better to do that than the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and anti-union legislators?

Click here to urge the Committee to vote NO on SB 212.


Block grant finance plan now up to “ramming speed”

Remember the old Viking movies when they ordered the oarsmen to work at “ramming speed” when attacking an enemy ship? Well, that’s a lot like the legislative process being used to pass a school finance bill that no one in the education community supports.

Oh, the bill does have supporters – the Kansas Policy Institute, the Kansas Tea Party’s Kansans for Liberty, and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. It just doesn’t have the support of school boards, superintendents, school administrators, teachers, the Kansas PTA, Game on for Kansas Schools, and every other group associated with public education in Kansas.

Unveiled at a Thursday press conference, the bill was available to be read on Friday. The hearing was Monday morning. Crammed into Senate Bill 7, it was passed out of Committee Tuesday morning. It will be debated on the floor of the House tomorrow. RAMMING SPEED!

The Legislature has spent years debating and pondering whether or not supermarkets can sell beer but only five days on the financing of the state’s entire system of public education!

Some folks believe that this plan is not so bad in that it seems to keep schools from losing millions more over the next two years. But that’s simply not true. Even Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson (R-Andover) admitted during the Senate hearing on the plan that there were no guarantees that the funds would not be cut. The state budget, after all, is in something of a crisis and there have been no efforts to fix the drying up revenue stream. And without that fix, nothing is guaranteed.

Click here to urge your Representative to vote NO on SB 7, the Block Grant bill.

House Ed Committee considers bill to replace the Teacher of the Year program

Suggesting that excellent teachers should stay in their classrooms instead for working state-wide, Rep. Jerry Lunn (R-Overland Park) has proposed HB 2378, a bill which would create a legislative teacher award program. A small group of business leaders, legislators, and principals, most of whom are political appointees, would select 15 teachers they considered excellent and provide them with large financial awards to the limit that they could generate funds. These teachers would not be ambassadors of great teaching as are the current teachers of the year.

This bill would also end the current Teacher of the Year program which has been in place since 1955. The Kansas TOY program has been a model for those in other states.

Many of the most conservative legislators around the room expressed the sentiment that Kansas teachers are underpaid. We agree. Teachers ARE underpaid. In fact, Kansas ranks 42nd in the nation in teacher salaries. Truth is they really are interested in only rewarding a few and getting their photo in the paper with one of those 15. We would suggest that a good way to start rewarding excellence would be to fund the Nationally Board Certified Teachers program that hasn’t been funded in years. That program would benefit many teachers who have demonstrated excellence.

The Committee plans to work the bill tomorrow.



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