House overwhelmingly denies a cornerstone of governor’s budget proposal

On Feb. 14, the House considered house bill 2197, which sought to reamortize KPERS for 30 years. This bill was introduced by Gail Finney, D-Wichita on behalf of the governor, and was a cornerstone of the governor’s budget proposal.

It proposed to extend the time that KPERS is not fully funded, for the purpose of freeing up some short-term dollars in support of proposed spending increases in other areas of the budget.

The bill received a public hearing in the Financial Institutions and Pensions Committee. It was important for our chamber to see if the idea could gain any momentum before considering the entirety of the governor’s budget.

With one third of the session in the books, house budget committee members needed to know if this “crucial” part of the governor’s proposal had support.

On a motion to advance HB 2197 to final action, the motion failed with a supermajority opposing the measure -- 36 in favor and 87 against. All Republicans voted against advancing the bill and they were joined by four Democrat colleagues.

Supporting reamortization would have extended the time KPERS is not fully funded by 15 years and cost taxpayers an additional $7.4 billion in interest payments through 2048.

Protecting our retirees, responsibly paying down debt, and ensuring that future Kansans don’t have to incur massive debt for the sake of current spending seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment.

Aviation Tax Credits—HB 2118

On Feb. 13, our House Commerce Committee held a hearing on HB 2118, which would create a new income tax credit for graduates of aerospace/aviation-related educational programs and their employers.

Specifically, a 50 percent income tax credit for tuition reimbursed to a qualified employee, and an income tax credit to an employer for compensation paid to a qualified employee.

Also, the bill would allow a qualified employer to claim a non-refundable income tax credit for up to five years for compensation paid to a qualified employee and would allow the employee to claim a $5,000 income tax credit for up to five years that the employee works for that employer.

There were several proponents of the bill, who included Rep. JR Claeys, R-Salina, the Kansas Independent College Association, the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Spirit Aerosystems, Learjet Bombardier, Textron, Wichita State University, and several regional chambers of commerce.

They all asserted that this bill would attract young professionals to the industry. It was discussed that aviation companies were actively recruiting additional workforce, but with difficulty because of aggressive competition from other states.

On Feb. 14, the committee amended the bill removing the income tax credit associated with salary paid by employers, effectively morphing it into a workforce development measure. The committee then voted to advance the bill favorably for passage to the full House. Action there awaits.

This bill could be very beneficial to our I-135 corridor as it not only relates to general aviation, but to the burgeoning UAV (drone) industry, as well.

Rep. Les Mason has served as a Republican member for the 73rd district in the Kansas House of Representatives since 2014.