How time flies! Only 3 and a half weeks left in regular session and then a break until the first part of May to wrap things up. Quite a few moving parts at this point in the session, so I’ll try to briefly explain.
The two main issues are always the budget and taxes. The Appropriations Committee continued to grind through the budget process and finally passed a budget bill late Feb. 12. It is not clear to those of us who are not on the committee exactly what is and what is not in the budget, but my understanding is that several fee- funded agencies were tapped for some money as well as the Children’s Initiative Fund. I will know more about the budget soon as staff is currently putting the details together.
The Taxation Committee also passed a bill out Feb. 12. It is no coincidence that budget and tax bills pass committees the same day. The House tax plan reduces the sales tax rate to 5.7 percent as per current law, but diverts .4 percent to the state general fund for two years rather than to KDOT. Under the plan, income taxes would be reduced further if growth in state revenues is greater than 2 percent. The mortgage deduction is still available but at a reduced rate. The Senate bill is very different but exact details will be forthcoming.
Another very important tax issue is the classification of Commercial and Industrial machinery and Equipment for property tax purposes. The disagreement below the surface is strong as some are saying the effects will be little to none while some say the effects will be large. I have taken considerable time to study and dig to get down to the basic facts. Property tax issues are always high profile since most of the time changes are a shift in who pays the property tax and not so much a true reduction.
What I mean by that is simply that when property taxes are reduced on one class of property, say the business machinery, either reductions in services are required or the remaining payers pay more to make up the difference. Property taxes are almost exclusively used to fund local governments so this becomes a very sensitive issue for cities, counties and schools especially.
A revised conceal carry bill passed the House Thursday. It requires local and State government buildings to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their firearm unless security, such as metal detectors or officers with wands are present to screen persons entering the building.
A few things are happening on the Agriculture Committee. We are receiving and working Senate bills, most of which have little day-to-day impact but are changes to reflect current practice. A bill that was originally known as the ‘right to farm’ law was revised to clarify some issues that have arisen since first passage more than 10 years ago. The ‘right to farm’ law defines accepted agricultural practices in areas, such as agricultural land next to a housing subdivision.
Page 2 of 2 - Two more issues that deserve quick mention are possibly changing the teacher negotiations process and a resolution to encourage the governor to not expand Medicaid in Kansas. The negotiations bill is still in committee and the resolution for not expanding Medicaid is out of committee and waiting floor action. Keep in mind that a resolution has no force of law, but is simply to express an opinion of the House. The governor actually has final say on Medicaid expansion and not the Legislature.
Issues move more quickly as we get close to the end of session. If the tax and budget bills pass the full House, we know the end of session is within sight, but I will not be holding my breath.
Don Schroeder of Hesston represents Kansas House District 74, which includes Moundridge.