Last week was an incredibly busy one in the Kansas Legislature. I am pleased that a coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Kansas House stood together to pass a comprehensive tax reform package. While HB 2178 is not perfect and may not be the final product, it is the first step towards restoring fiscal stability in our state. It sends a strong message regarding the House position that the "march to zero" income tax policy is no longer acceptable. On Friday, the Senate passed the same tax bill approved by the House and it is now on its way to the Governor.
We are quickly approaching Turnaround Day, February 23rd, the last day to consider non-exempt bills in house of origin. Some committees will meet on Monday and then we will be on the House Floor the rest of the week.
It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 452-S, Kansas Statehouse, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax Bill Passes House and Senate
A comprehensive bill put forth by the House Tax Committee would largely reverse Governor Sam Brownback’s “march to zero” tax experiment, which has put Kansas in a fiscal crisis. The legislation (Substitute House Bill 2178) is expected to increase the state’s revenue by $590.2M in FY2018, and a steady $460M each fiscal year following.
Sub HB 2178 repeals the LLC loophole, which has allowed 330,000 Kansans to avoid paying any state income tax. It also reinstates the third tax bracket to make tax policy fair. In addition, the legislation will protect the mortgage interest deduction rate of 50%, and returns the medical expense itemized deduction at 100%.
The bill underwent the initial vote on the House Floor on Wednesday, February 15th. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 83 votes to 39. The final vote on the bill occurred Thursday, passing 76 to 48.
Friday morning, the House tax bill was debated in the Senate Chamber. It passed with a bipartisan majority 22 to 18 vote, and will now be sent to the Governor as early as next week. Brownback can choose to sign the bill into law, or use his power of veto to send it back to the legislature.
See the full bill here.
House Passes Budget Fix
Also this week, the House solved the current budget deficit of $350M by largely liquidating a state investment fund (known as the Pooled Money Investment Portfolio, or PMIP). While this is not the preferred option of Democrats, this position far exceeds the alternative – which would force across-the-board cuts to public schools and higher ed. Kansas education budgets have already suffered severe cuts over the last several years. Kansas Democrats and Kansans overwhelmingly support public education, and will continue to defend it.
Hospital Conceal Carry Bill Dead in Committee
On Wednesday, February 15th, the House Federal and State Committee voted on a bill that would exempt Kansas hospitals from the concealed carry law set to take effect on July 1st of this year.
The committee deadlocked with an 11-11 vote. The committee’s chair refused to cast a tie-breaking vote. Democrats will work to find alternative ways to get the bill to the House floor for a vote.
Bills on the House Floor
This week, the tax and budget bills were the main pieces of legislation on the floor. A few other bills passed through, including:
HB 2048: A school district plan addressing child sexual abuse; establishing Erin’s Law
HB 2096: Concerning the operation of transit buses on certain right shoulders in Wyandotte County
HB 2030: Pharmacist, pharmacy student or intern, administration of vaccines to persons six years or older
See a full list of bills passed here.