Archive for Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dealing with state tax cuts driving the 2013 legislative agenda

January 12, 2013


Statehouse events this week


A "People's State of the State" rally will be held at noon on the east steps of the Statehouse. The rally is being coordinated by MoveOn of Johnson County.

Rally organizers said those speaking at the event will be Kathy Cook, Kansas Families for Education; Lisa Ochs, American Federation for Teachers-Kansas; Karen Godfrey, Kansas National Education Association; Micheline Burger, KC Mainstream Coalition; Rev. Ben Scott, Kansas NAACP; Tom Witt, Kansas Equality Coalition; Elise Higgins, Kansas National Organization for Women; Sarah Gillooly, Kansas Planned Parenthood; Jennifer Smith, Move to Amend; and Louis Goseland, Sunflower Community Action/KanVote.

The House and Senate convene at 2 p.m.


Gov. Sam Brownback will outline his initiatives when he delivers his 2013 State of the State address at 6:30 p.m. Democrats will offer response after the speech.


Brownback's proposed budget will be presented by Budget Director Steve Anderson at 9 a.m. to the House Appropriations Committee, and 10:30 a.m. to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

— The state of Kansas faces its own fiscal cliff as the Legislature starts the 2013 session on Monday.

Because of tax cuts pushed through last year by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative legislators, state revenues are shrinking. And the appetite among the growing conservative majority in the Legislature for more budget cuts is growing.

Those legislators aren't simply ready to cut state agency budgets; there are numerous proposals that would have the effect of reducing taxes or limiting spending on the local level.

City, county and school officials often complain about how the actions in the Statehouse negatively affect their ability to deliver services, just as state legislators complain about Washington.

But this year, that complaining has morphed into a outspoken concerns about Topeka among some local leaders.

"To say that local governments are worried this year is to put it lightly," Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said.

As if this wasn't enough, on Friday a three-judge panel ruled that the Legislature violated the Kansas Constitution by cutting public school funding over the past several years. It ordered a $440 million increase in funding. The state has said it will appeal the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court

While the court is unlikely to rule until after the legislative session, the decision by the three-judge panel will likely dominate public policy debate on school funding and attempts by conservatives to rein in the courts.

The budget equation

When legislators gavel in Monday, they will start working on the budget for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1.

The effects of reducing state income tax rates and eliminating state income taxes for nearly 200,000 business owners will be part of the equation. The total amount of revenue the state is expected to collect in the fiscal year is approximately $5.5 billion. Current spending levels are at $6.2 billion.

That leaves a $700 million difference — nearly 12 percent of current spending — that has to be bridged through either budget cuts, tax increases or a combination of the two.

"No matter what solutions lawmakers choose, the fiscal year 2014 budget presents many challenges that could have a direct effect on health programs and other key services," said Duane Goosen, an analyst with the Kansas Health Institute, who served as the state's budget director under Republican Gov. Bill Graves and Democratic governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

The one-cent solution

One partial solution that Brownback has indicated support for in the past is keeping in place the 6.3 percent state sales tax.

When the state was reeling from the "Great Recession," a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats in 2010 approved a one-cent increase in the sales tax — raising it from 5.3 percent to the current 6.3 percent — for three years to avoid further cuts to schools, social services and public safety. The sales tax is scheduled to ratchet down to 5.7 cents per dollar on July 1, with a portion of the levy going to help fund the state's transportation program.

Conservative Republicans and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce hammered those who supported the tax increase when it passed, but now the Chamber of Commerce has pivoted, leading the charge to make the temporary increase permanent. The chamber wants more budget cuts and then the higher sales tax revenue can be used to cut income tax rates further.

The decision makers

Working on these financial problems is an inexperienced House and new ruling group in the Senate.

Partially due to court-ordered redistricting, there will be 50 rookies in the 125-member Kansas House. The 40-member Senate has 16 new members, although 14 have served in the House.

"When the court redrew maps it really caused a big change in the overall makeup of the Legislature. This is the product of it," Brownback said in an interview.

In the 2012 legislative session, a political war within the Republican Party sent the redistricting process to federal court. A three-judge panel hit the reset button and drew congressional, legislative and State Board of Education district lines.

That resulted in a frantic rush for candidates and a huge freshman class.

Now there are House members who are starting only their second terms and finding themselves chairing committees. The Senate also is under new leadership that is tightly aligned with Brownback.

But to all the new members, most of whom are solidly conservative, Brownback had some advice: "I always believe you shouldn't overplay your hand. I've been saying that for years. You do what is sensible and have a strategy for doing it and try to move that on forward. That's going to continue to be my message."


jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

Those who like to complain about the temporary payroll tax cut expiring haven't thought it through very well, since they also generally complain about SS being unsustainable.


gccs14r 1 year, 3 months ago

If ol' Sam were really interested in the betterment of Kansas for all Kansans, he would have added a new higher income tax bracket, eliminated the sales tax on food, and restored education funding.


William Weissbeck 1 year, 3 months ago

I wouldn't feel so bad about this if I thought the legislature was composed of thrift ants making plans for the better of the community. Rather, the legislature is a pack of vultures - they have no end goal other than to leave a carcass behind. A friend of mine moved to NC where they adopted the same tax stunt. Because as a doctor he is considered an independent contractor to his hospital ER, the state of NC treats his earnings as that of a small business. Therefore, he gets to write of the first $50,000 on his income. Bottom line - if you cut some group's taxes, then some other group is going to have to pay the difference, either in more taxes or fewer services.


Scott Bonnet 1 year, 3 months ago

Brownback and the far right will tax the poor and middle-class to fund goodies for their real constituents.


JackMcKee 1 year, 3 months ago

I've lived in Kansas for 39 years. My family has lived here for 4 generations. This is the first time I've truly been ashamed to be a Kansas resident and had a strong desire to move elsewhere. Kansas used to be such a nice place to live.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 3 months ago

The courts can't originate the cases that come before them. All they can do is rule on the merits of the cases that are filed. That's what they did in this one.

If the legislature wants to try to pass a constitutional amendment that will allow them to effectively dismantle the public school systems across the state, that's within their power. But until they successfully do that, they're obligated to follow their constitutional mandate.

But it will be interesting to see if the governor and legislature defy the courts, and likely get hit with contempt of court rulings. Will law enforcement do their jobs and arrest them? What would this full-blown constitutional crisis look like?


verity 1 year, 3 months ago

Not overplayed his hand? ? ? So what other evil plans does he have in store for us?

They are NOT conservatives! Please stop calling them that.

Call them what they are.

Radical. Reactionary. Extreme. Destructionists. Heartless. Tyrants. And several more things that would get me disappeareded.

Dare I call it treason? They certainly seem hellbent on destroying democracy and a balance in our government.

But NOT conservatives. Not even close.


Laus_Deo 1 year, 3 months ago

Deal with it government people. It's not your money. You are a luxury.

During times of fiscal stress, government people plundering wealth is a luxury left for Pirates, if they can get it.


headdoctor 1 year, 3 months ago

Not sure why they keep bringing up the school funding in articles. The law makers thumbed their nose at the courts before and will do it again. Brownback already has played his hand. He likes the sales tax where it is and he already warned of property tax increase for the school funding.

The Legislators have their agenda and it has caused me to come up with my own agenda against the effects of the no income tax for businesses, etc. The heart of the plan is to do as much business as feasible with companies that don't have a presence in Kansas.


weeslicket 1 year, 3 months ago

Brownback had some advice: "I always believe you shouldn't overplay your hand. I've been saying that for years. You do what is sensible and have a strategy for doing it and try to move that on forward. That's going to continue to be my message."

whaaa?? governor brownback has never said this before. and his choices while in office have accomplished the opposite.


Water 1 year, 3 months ago

It seems odd to me that so many articles describe the annual U.S. Federal Government budget and annual U.S. State's budgets. The total debt value should be included with all of these articles. Striving for zero deficits for the year won't get us out of the hole.

National Debt is about $16,400,000,000,000 Kansas Debt is about 29,500,000,000 Lawrence Debt.? My personal debt.?

I'd be in well into the black if my share of the National debt and Kansas State debt weren't about $155,000!


anothernerdygirl 1 year, 3 months ago

True jafs. Many voters believe what Brownback says and many voters drank the kool aide.


Joe Hyde 1 year, 3 months ago

Well, yes. But keep in mind: The mass confusion that will characterize this amateur legislature would not represent a threat to Kansas governance if Gov. Brownback and other Koch-supported conservatives had not spent all their time euthanizing every moderate Republican in sight.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 3 months ago

People get ready...there's a train wreck comin.'


Mike1949 1 year, 3 months ago

That's going to continue to be my message.

Ya, right, the only message is the decimation of Kansas! We are becoming the joke of all the states in the US, replacing the deep south being one of the worst places to live! With laws like Arizona, purgatory here we come!


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