Governor Kelly vetoes SB 50 – massive tax cut that threatens the state budget

Senate Bill 50 – sometimes referred to as “Brownback 2.0” – would slash revenue to the state budget by $307.7 million putting funding for all state services, including education, in jeopardy.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly

While the bill would provide some tax relief for ordinary Kansans (a maximum of $28.50 for most Kansans), it would provide generous benefits to companies that hide their revenue overseas to avoid paying federal taxes.

Proponents of the bill seem to believe that the only reason a company would move to Kansas would be to pay less in taxes and, while tax rates do matter, what matters more is the state infrastructure that supports commerce, the quality of the workforce available (that’s education!), and quality healthcare programs for their employees and their families to have access to. Under Governor Laura Kelly, the Kansas Department of Commerce has been reinvigorated and as a result, Kansas is growing despite the terrible impact of the pandemic. Companies like Urban Outfitters, Amazon, and Great Plains Manufacturing have brought $2.5 billion in new investment to Kansas over the past year.

What Kansas needs to do now is to continue to invest in those things that really matter to companies: education, health care, and infrastructure, in particular.

When the legislature returns on May 3, we expect there will be an attempt to override Governor Kelly’s veto of SB 50. We will be putting out an alert on this issue as the legislature returns in May. Please look for that alert and, when the time comes, urge your legislators to sustain this veto of SB 50.

Governor Kelly’s Veto Message on SB 50

“Last year, despite COVID-19, Kansas experienced a record-setting $2.5 billion in new investment from businesses. These companies chose to make Kansas home in large part due to the state’s recent investments in our economic development tools, prioritizing funding for infrastructure improvements, and reinvesting in our students.

“As many of you with whom I served well remember, in order to provide sustainable funding for essential government services, we cannot return to the era of perennial, self-inflicted budget crises that undermine the very fabric and foundation of our state.” 

“Therefore, under Article 2, Section 14(a) of the Constitution, I hereby veto Senate Bill 50.”

Are more vetoes coming?

At this time, there is some speculation that other vetoes may be in the works – and likely attempts to override those vetoes if they happen. The following are three controversial bills that might be vetoed.

House Bill 2058 would allow teens to carry concealed firearms

House Bill 2058 would allow teenagers ages 18-20 to obtain permits to carry concealed handguns in public, including carrying inside school zones and on college campuses. This would lower the age for who can carry hidden, loaded handguns in Kansas. Given the restrictions the legislature has already put on the ability of post-secondary institutions to control firearms on our campuses, this bill has the potential to allow nearly every student on a post-secondary campus to carry a concealed firearm in classrooms and dormitories. In order to ban the carrying of firearms, a college must provide security at every entrance to every building – a measure that would be cripplingly costly. Additionally, the legislature has prohibited the colleges from lobbying on gun legislation. KNEA opposes HB 2058 as it puts our students and higher education faculty at risk.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded in response to the Newtown school shootings in 2012. In 2013, they merged with Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2013 and they formed Everytown for Gun Safety in 2014. Everytown for Gun Safety has set up an alert on HB 2058, urging Governor Kelly to veto the bill. You can access that alert here.

Senate Bill 55 establishes state-sanctioned discrimination against transgender girls

Senate Bill 55 started out as Senate Bill 208 and continues in the same vein as the original. The bill bans transgender girls in public K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities from participating on girl’s or women’s athletic teams. According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, which currently regulates the participation of transgender students on sports teams, there are only five such students on teams in Kansas at this time.

KNEA opposes the bill because of the negative impact on transgender students who are already at a greater risk of depression and suicide due to discrimination and marginalization. The bill is also opposed by the NCAA and is likely to result in the loss of scheduled NCAA tournaments that are already scheduled to be played in Kansas. Several area chambers of commerce have openly opposed the bill saying that such legislation harms their ability to attract employees and, in the case of the Kansas City area, in particular, will likely hamper their efforts to attract a World Cup soccer tournament.

Leading the opposition to the bill is Equality Kansas, formerly the Kansas Equality Coalition, which was established in October 2005. Originally formed by the merger of independent LGBT advocacy groups in Topeka, Manhattan, and Wichita, Equality Kansas is a chapter-based grassroots organization. Equality Kansas currently has 11 chapters and more than 2,000 members around the state. Equality Kansas has set up an alert on SB 55, urging the Governor to veto the bill. You can access that alert here.

House Bill 2039 usurps the authority of the Kansas State Board of Education and micromanages teaching and assessment in Kansas classrooms

House Bill 2039 takes responsibility for decisions of curriculum, assessment, and graduation requirements away from the Kansas State Board of Education, substituting the judgement of the legislature for that of educators.

First, the bill makes the U.S. Citizenship test – which is essentially a multiple choice American trivia test – into a high stakes assessment for high school students. If a student does not pass this one multiple choice test, then the student cannot get credit for a required high school civics class. This has the potential to “dumb down” the teaching of civics by elevating this test as the only thing of actual importance in the class. This portion of the bill was opposed by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, the Kansas State Social Studies Teachers Association, the state board of education, and multiple local school boards.

To the civics test requirement was added a required course in financial literacy for graduation from high school. Again, this was opposed by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, the Kansas State Social Studies Teachers Association, the state board of education, and multiple local school boards. While no one has any objection to financial literacy and many school districts already offer such a course, making the course a high school graduation requirement simply reduces opportunities for students to take additional math and science classes beyond the three required, classes in the performing or visual arts, or foreign languages.

Beyond a discussion of whether or not these are good ideas – and they might be – this is not the responsibility of the legislature. The Kansas Constitution clearly gives general supervision of the public school system to the elected members of the Kansas State Board of Education. They have the authority when it comes to decisions of curriculum, assessment, and graduation requirements.