By Jim Gartner
Kansas House of Representatives
The legislature adjourned Saturday evening until the ceremonial last day on June 26. It was a stressful last week with the budget, taxes, and school finance taking most of our time and energy.
Ending the Experiment
The end of most of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts was made official with the passing of SB 30, which Governor Brownback promptly vetoed. The governor’s veto was overridden by votes of 88-31 in the House and 27-13 in the Senate. More than $1.2 billion in revenue will be raised for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. The legislation restores tax fairness by repealing, the non-wage business income tax exemption for small businesses. Several itemized deductions taken away in 2012 will be gradually restored, including deductions for medical expenses, mortgage interest and property taxes. A child and dependent care tax credit also will be brought back in phases. A credit that helps certain low-income taxpayers, however, will be reduced. In addition, business owners can begin claiming certain non-wage business income losses similar to federal tax policy. The bill restores three individual income tax brackets for 2017 of 2.9 percent, 4.9 percent and 5.2 percent. In future years, the rates will be 3.1 percent, 5.25 percent and 5.7 percent. Finally, the bill renews the state’s STAR Bonds economic development program until 2022, but places a one-year ban on the state granting any new projects.
You will notice the 2012 tax levels are still above the income taxes restored to the state budget with this bill.
School Funding Formula
The Legislature passed SB 19 to provide some additional funding for Kansas schools. The bill calls for $294 million in more money over the next two school years. All-day kindergarten and an increase in early childhood funding would be covered under the bill. The legislation also has a controversial provision that expands a tax credit scholarship program that goes toward private school education. The program lets individuals and companies receive a tax credit if they provide funding to scholarship-granting organizations. Overall, the base aid for students would be set at $4,006 for this coming school year and $4,128 for 2018-2019. In future years, the base aid would be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index. Performance audits would be mandated under the bill, and the funding formula would sunset in 10 years. A previous effort to pass both the school finance provisions and a tax reform plan in this same bill failed in the House, 32-91. After separating the tax provisions from the school funding, SB 19 passed the House, 67-55, and the Senate, 23-17. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the bill into law late this af. It now must be considered by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The House and Senate passed S Sub for HB 2002, for Fiscal Years 2017-2020, which expands on the paltry budget submitted by Gov. Sam Brownback at the beginning of the year. The compromise bill includes a $238.3 million increase over the governor’s proposal, and includes funding for plans for a State Employee Health Clinic, increased funding for mental hospitals, community mental health centers, payments to the KS Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), and increases for KU and K-State, which were cut heavily in recent years. The bill provides a long-sought 2.5% pay increase for many state workers, a 5% raise for those who haven’t seen a raise in at least five years, and an across-the-board 2.5% raise for judicial employees who are the lowest paid in the country. It passed the House (88-27) and Senate (27-11), and is awaiting the Governor Brownback’s consideration.
HB 2054 is now law after its signing by Gov. Sam Brownback. The bill will change the Employment Security Law regarding accessing unemployment insurance records kept by the Department of Labor. Besides state employees, contractors and other agents working on behalf of state public officials and performing their official duties will now have access to those records. In addition, the bill changes the law for the Kansas Sentencing Commission so it can better gather data and information from state agencies to carry out its duties and functions. The bill passed the House, 98-23, and the Senate, 36-2.
Alcoholic Beverage Consumption
Like the Power & Light District in Kansas City, cities and counties now will have the option of creating community spaces that allow residents and visitors to drink alcohol. Gov. Sam Brownback signed Sub HB 2277 to allow “common consumption areas” to be established for drinking in public spaces. Topeka is considering such a designation. Common consumption areas are defined as an indoor or outdoor area, clearly marked for such activities. The conference committee report passed the House, 97-22, and the Senate, 35-5.
After the state enacted legislation to tighten regulations on the amusement ride industry earlier this year, the House has passed a bill to rescind and replace the law. H Sub for SB 86 changes the Kansas Amusement Ride Act and the Amusement Ride Insurance Act originally contained in H Sub for SB 70. The changes would take effect July 1, 2018. As with the old bill, the new legislation would provide more oversight to amusement park rides brought about by the tragic death of a child and injuries suffered to other riders at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kan., in August 2016. The new bill changes permitting; registration; collection of fees; injury reporting; handling deaths on rides; insurance for ride operators; qualifications for inspectors; quality of inspections; and the handling of violations and penalties. The House passed the bill, 107-14.
Medicaid Reimbursement Rates
Medicaid reimbursement and privilege fees are part of a comprehensive bill, HB 2079. The bill covers Medicaid reimbursement for emergency ground transportation services; privilege fees for health maintenance organizations (HMOs); and fees going to the Kansas Newborn Screening Fund. The bill creates a voluntary, intergovernmental transfer program for Medicaid manage care, emergency ground medical transport and pre-stabilization services. It also starts supplemental Medicaid reimbursement for emergency ground medical transportation. These provisions will cost the State General Fund about $289,000 in Fiscal Year 2018. The privilege fee is currently set at 3.77 percent, and the legislation would increase it to 5.77 percent to help lessen cuts to Medicaid for hospitals and others. The bill would raise $103.9 million in FY 2018. The newborn screening fund will receive money from the Medical Assistance Fee Fund and could be funded up to $2.5 million each fiscal year. The conference committee report was approved by the House, 101-18, and the Senate, 32-5. Gov. Sam Brownback now receives the bill.
The Kansas Lottery will expand its reach under HB 2313, if it becomes law. The bill would allow the use of instant lottery ticket and bingo vending machines; keep individuals 18 and under from collecting on winning lottery tickets; and extend the Kansas Lottery until July 1, 2022. The bill passed the House, 98-19, and the Senate, 34-4. Gov. Brownback vetoed the bill late this afternoon. We may consider the veto on June 26.
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 43-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7673 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at *protected email*. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.