Capitol Briefing: Removal of food sales tax debated

Removal of food sales tax debated

When the House last week approved its plan to cut income taxes, it added a proposal to remove the sales tax on food.

But few legislators give the sales tax proposal much chance of surviving because it would mean a $350 million hit to the state’s general fund.

Even so, the issue comes up every now and then as Kansas is one of only eight states that levies its full sales tax on groceries.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the last time he spoke with former Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican who signed into law several tax cuts in the 1990s, Graves told him that if he could do it over again, he would have pushed for removing the sales tax on food.

Quote of the week

“I think it’s safe to say that other states don’t want to be in the position Kansas is in now. Everybody wants support and funding.”

— Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, commenting on the lack of state funding in Kansas for the arts because of a veto by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Cash balance plan in play

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said there seems to be increased support in the Legislature for a so-called cash balance plan to address financial problems with the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System.

The plan would create a new retirement plan for new teachers and other government employees hired in 2014 or later.

Currently, KPERS benefits are based on a worker’s salary and years of service. The proposed plan would be based on the employee’s contributions and a guaranteed 5 percent interest on the contributions annually.

Representatives of employee groups say the proposal still shortchanges workers.

Brownback’s school finance plan left back

Without much fanfare, the Senate Education Committee has voted to send Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance plan to an interim committee to be studied after the session is over.

During several days of hearings, Brownback’s proposal was panned by numerous school districts and education groups.

March Madness sweeps Statehouse

Come tournament time, some legislators go all out to show support for their favorite teams, decorating their desks with team paraphernalia and wearing team colors.

One of the biggest fans is House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

During a meeting of the House Redistricting Committee, of which he is chairman, O’Neal announced that Kansas State had lost to Southern Mississippi. But he apparently got an incorrect text, and someone in the audience said the game was still going. K-State eventually won that game.

Then, during debate Friday, O’Neal interrupted debate to announce that Missouri had been defeated by Norfolk State.

What’s next:

Most business this week will be on the floors of the House and Senate.

• 9 a.m. today — Staff briefing on House Substitute for Senate 259, enacting the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System act of 2014, before House Pensions and Benefits Committee, Room 142-South, Capitol.

• Noon today — Senate Reapportionment Committee discussion and possible action on redistricting of Senate and House districts.

• 1 p.m. today — Review of cash balance plan, before Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Select Committee, Room 548-South, Capitol.

• 8 a.m. Tuesday — Hearing on Senate Bill 314, eliminating the fishing and hunting license exemption for persons 65 or older, before House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Room 783 Docking Building.