In a question-and-answer period on Wednesday with the Kansas Board or Regents, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback provided some insight into the end of the 2013 legislation session in June in which Republican legislative leaders demanded cuts to the universities and Brownback accepted those cuts.
Brownback said at the end of a legislative session, "Often you're crowding everything into a chute, and we're going to get this done tonight — this is going to happen tonight, and then things happen and it doesn't always come out exactly the way your wanted it to come out. And things get traded here and there to get something on through the final process."
Brownback said perhaps the perception from legislative leaders was that higher education could handle the cuts. "You have a lot places you get money from, and maybe you can handle this, whereas other places don't have the options," he said.
On the final day of the session, Republican leaders mustered enough votes within their caucuses to pass a state budget that cut universities 3 percent over two years and to push through a tax package that increased the state sales tax while reducing deductions and racheting down income tax rates.
Brownback has made phasing out the state income tax one of his major goals.
Brownback has praised GOP legislative leaders, but has vowed to fight for restoration of the cuts when the 2014 session starts in January.
Topeka -- Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday didn't seem to want to get involved in the controversy over the 13,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are up in the air.
When asked about it, Brownback, a Republican, referred to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. "It's in the secretary of state's purview," Brownback said.
Brownback acknowledged an interest in the voting booth being "open for people." "We'll watch and review the process as it's coming forward, but there is a constitutional officer that's in charge of that." Again, that's a reference to Kobach.
Since the state proof of citizenship requirement took effect at the start of this year, more than 13,000 new Kansas voter registrants have been unable to complete the process because they didn't provide citizenship documents, such as a birth certificate or passport.
Voting rights advocates say the new law needs to be repealed and that the large number of incomplete registrations shows the state wasn't ready for such a proof of citizenship requirement.
Visiting Arkansas today, Gov. Sam Brownback said that unsuccessful Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney focused too narrowly on the economy and that the GOP must stick to its opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
His comments were made in Little Rock, Ark., to a reporter for The Associated Press before Brownback spoke to about 500 people gathered for a fundraiser for the Arkansas Republican Party.
"You can't just talk all about economic terms," Brownback said. "You've got to talk about terms to the heart." He said of Romney: "I think he would have been better off talking about the social issues more. (President Barack) Obama talked a lot about social issues. If people don't hear you talking about them, they don't think they're necessarily that important to you."
On abortion, Brownback said: "If you believe this is a life, how do you not fight for a life? If you make that determination that this is a life, this is a sacred life, you have to fight for it or what does that say about what you're willing to allow? Much of it transcends politics."
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback is running for re-election.
A message recently sent to supporters seeks to raise funds for the 2014 election.
"With your help, we're turning Kansas around," the message from Brownback says.
Brownback, a Republican elected in 2010, says he turned a projected budget deficit into a surplus, increased private sector jobs and cut taxes.
"It's been a lot of work, but it's been worth it. Now is the time to protect and build on our achievements," he said.
Democrats have argued that budget shortfall problems were fixed primarily through the passage of a sales tax increase before Brownback took office, and that Brownback's tax cuts benefit the wealthy and will hurt funding for education and social services.
But no Democrat has announced an intention to take on Brownback in the governor's race.
David Kensinger, who is president of Brownback's political action committee, today said, "The Governor is running for re-election and is actively raising funds and mobilizing grassroots supporters.There has not been a conventional announcement tour per se, but he is a candidate for re-election with an active committee."
TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback's administration expects tax revenue gains for the month of May, according to an email inadvertently sent Friday to the Lawrence Journal-World.
The email, from Chad Bettes, who is a high-ranking official in the Kansas Department of Revenue, to Sherriene Jones-Sontag, spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, even includes a prepared comment from Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan. The actual revenue numbers were to be filled in later Friday.
Earlier Friday, Jordan urged House Republicans to break an impasse during the current overtime legislative session and approve measures that increase the sales tax but lower income tax rates. He said lowering income taxes would stimulate the economy. While higher sales taxes hit the poor hardest, he said the state spends $3.5 billion a year on safety-net programs for low-income Kansans.
Here is the email from Bettes to Jones-Sontag. The subject heading said, "Please advise of changes and/or approval":
Planning to send the numbers out between 4 and 4:30 p.m. -- State Tax Receipts Total $XX.X Million in May TOPEKA – May tax receipts exceeded estimates by $XX million, or XX percent, buoyed by one-time revenue attributed to taxpayers who accelerated income in advance of federal tax increases enacted earlier this year. Individual income receipts were $XX million more than anticipated, or XX percent, for the month. The increase over the estimate was due in part to balance due payments for 2012 income taxes, which were processed in late April and early May following the annual tax filing deadline. “It is important to be cautious when looking at these numbers because federal tax hikes proposed at the end of last year and passed in January likely influenced taxpayer behavior as people worked to ensure that income would be taxed at 2012 rates,” said Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan. “We have reaped the benefit of that at the state level in April and May, and now we expect things to return to more normal levels.”
Topeka — More than 21,000 uninsured Kansans with mental illness would receive needed treatment, and lives would be saved if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, a new report says.
So far, Brownback, a vocal opponent of the ACA, and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature are going in the opposite direction.
Brownback has declined to sign on to Medicaid expansion, and a pending House resolution says the Legislature isn't interested in expansion.
But the National Alliance on Mental Illness urged legislators to increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid, saying that would strengthen the mental health care system.
Nationwide, the expansion would provide treatment to 2.7 million uninsured people living with mental illness, the NAMI report said. NAMI, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, said that currently fewer than half of Americans with mental illness receive treatment.
"In Kansas, 21,293 currently uninsured adults who live with mental illness would become eligible under Medicaid expansion," said Rick Cagan, executive director for NAMI Kansas. "This represents 13.2 percent of the overall uninsured population in the state. That would be a big step forward. It will help save lives,” said Cagan.
The report says that Medicaid expansion would be a good deal for the states because the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and taper to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Kansas would get $5.27 billion in federal funding over 10 years, and save $149 million in uncompensated care, NAMI said. "When mental illness isn’t treated, costs get shifted to emergency rooms and the criminal justice system,” said Cagan. “Families break up. Taxpayers end up paying avoidable costs," he said.
Currently, Medicaid provides health care coverage to about 380,000 Kansans. The largest portion of them — about 230,000 — are children. The rest are mostly lower-income, pregnant women, people with disabilities and elderly people. The $2.8 billion program is funded with federal and state dollars.
Medicaid in Kansas doesn’t cover low-income adults who don’t have children. And a nondisabled adult with children is eligible only if his or her income is below 32 percent of the poverty level, which is approximately $5,000 per year. That is one of the toughest eligibility standards in the country.
But starting in 2014, the ACA creates an eligibility level of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $15,415 per year for an individual and $26,344 per year for a family of three.
Estimates are that upwards of 150,000 more Kansans would be covered under the expansion.
GOP tax plans would increase taxes on low-wage Kansans, decrease taxes for high-income Kansans, report says
Topeka — Taxes will increase for low-wage Kansans and decrease for those with higher incomes under plans being considered by Republican state legislators, according to a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy looked at the various proposals before the Legislature that essentially increase the state sales tax while ratcheting down the income tax and reducing deductions.
Currently, the state sales tax of 6.3 percent is scheduled to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1. But Gov. Sam Brownback wants to keep the rate at 6.3 percent, saying that will stabilize the state budget and help buy down income tax rates.
A Senate GOP plan to keep the rate at 6.25 percent, while lowering income tax rates, would result in a tax increase for 60 percent of Kansans, making $60,000 per year or less, the ITEP analysis shows. Of that group, the largest percentage increase would be for those making $20,000 per year or less.
But those making more than $60,000 per year would realize a tax cut under the proposals. ITEP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group. Its stated mission is to provide information on tax policies, tax fairness, government budgets and sound economic policy.
Topeka — As the Kansas Legislature remained deadlocked over taxes and spending, Gov. Sam Brownback is speaking today at a $40-a-ticket luncheon in Chicago before the Illinois Policy Institute.
The event has been titled "There's no place like home. A conversation with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback."
The information about the event says that Brownback "has proven to be an innovative reformer seeking to expand liberty in the Sunflower State." It says Brownback enacted the largest income tax cut in Kansas history and is seeking more cuts.
The Illinois Policy Institute describes itself as a non-partisan organization dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives. Here is a link to information about the event.link text
Topeka — A possible election challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback by former Senate President Steve Morris has been batted around the Twitterverse recently.
Contacted by phone, Morris, a Republican from Hugoton, said he has no plans to run for governor in 2014, but he added, "In this business, you never want to say never."
Morris said there was been discussion around the state of trying to challenge Brownback, a conservative Republican, with an independent or third-party candidate. He said there is probably no way a moderate Republican could defeat Brownback during the GOP primary because of the strength of conservatives within the party.
Morris said he believes Brownback's income tax cuts are hurting the state.
"The tax plan that the governor engineered last year was a big mistake, and this (Brownback's desire to eliminate the state income tax altogether) would just compound that mistake," he said.
Morris was one of 9 moderate Republican senators who were defeated in the GOP primary in August 2012. The moderates were targeted by Wichita-based Koch Industries and groups loyal to Brownback, such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansans for Life.
Topeka — The legislative wrap-up session entered its second week and the major items have yet to be wrapped up.
Gov. Sam Brownback, Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, planned to meet Monday to discuss taxes, but for rest of the Legislature there's not much to do.
A lot of resolutions have been passed honoring folks, and on Friday state Rep. Phil Hermanson, R-Wichita, proposed to his girlfriend, Rhonda Riggs, on the House floor. She said yes.
But the major state business — passing a budget and the taxes to support it — have eluded legislators. Still, Brownback was optimistic.
In a two-minute exchange with reporters, he said, "It always takes a lot to finish a session up and that's where we are now."
He said talks with Wagle and Merrick have gone well. "We have excellent leadership, seasoned leadership," he said.
Brownback declined to talk about what was being discussed behind closed doors. And he wouldn't give a time period on when he expected the Legislature to finish.
Monday was the 80th day of the session, and leaders of the GOP-dominated Legislature didn't expect an agreement on tax cuts and a state budget until later in the week.
Brownback and Senate Republicans have agreed to cancel a sales tax decrease from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent scheduled by law July 1. Brownback says revenue from the higher sales tax rate is needed to stabilize the budget and help enact income tax cuts.
House Republicans want to let the sales tax drop and enact less aggressive income tax reductions.
As far as the budget goes, Brownback has called for the same level of funding for higher education as last year, while the House has proposed a 4 percent cut, and the Senate, a 2 percent cut.