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Mark's Musings - 2017 Legislative Session
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Veto Session Continues...


The legislature has been back in session since May 1. The main issues to be resolved are the same as at the start of the session, the state’s budget, tax policies and a new school finance formula. Many wonder why it takes so much time to reach a consensus and pass the appropriate legislation.

The House has 125 members. Their constituents may have different ideas for solutions than my district. Some place more emphasis on certain issues than I do. Some want spending cuts, some want to reverse the 2012 tax cuts in a single year. So, the difficulty lies in getting 63 members to vote yes on a single bill. It takes time with a lot of conversations to get to that point. I understand the frustration as it appears we are wasting time, and I also wish it would move at a quicker pace. However, I have been at the Capitol over the last 16 years, and this year is not much different than others. It takes time to develop the votes and get these significant issues resolved.

The path I favor is one of sufficient new revenues to begin funding critical areas in a responsible manner. We have underfunded many critical government priorities over the last four years, such as highways, health care and judicial salaries.  The House and Senate need to not only get enough votes to pass legislation with 63 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate, but also enough votes to override a potential governor’s veto, which requires 84 in the House and 27 in the Senate. Unfortunately, Governor Brownback continues to advocate his policies of tax cuts, fund sweeps, borrowing and delayed payments. Those policies are unsustainable and must be corrected.

So, the current situation is this….

We are working on a budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which means from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019. The total budget deficit, if we continue current policies, is about $900 million. To achieve a zero balance we need to raise the equivalent amount of revenue through taxes or fees, or elimination of income tax exemptions such as the LLC exemption. Transfers (aka sweeps) would most likely continue at the current pace. Although I’m not in favor of having an ongoing policy of relying on sweeps to balance the budget, I believe we must wean ourselves off this practice over a few years rather than immediately. I, and many of my colleagues, favor the elimination of the LLC income tax exemption.

Back in February, Substitute for HB 2178 removed the exemption on LLCs, and raised $590 million in FY 18 and $453 million in FY 19…a total of $1.04 billion. It kept the tax rate for those earning under $30,000 the same as last year, at 2.7%. For those earning between $30,000 and $100,000, the rate rose from 4.6% to 5.25%. For those earning more than $100,000, the rate rose from 4.6% to 5.45%. All three tiers are lower than the tax rates were in 2012, before the Brownback tax cuts took effect. The House and Senate passed the bill, then the governor vetoed it. The House overrode the veto, but the Senate could not, coming three votes short. Since then, other tax plans have surfaced, but none received traction. The final product could include income tax rate increases, an increase in the gas tax, along with other taxes.

Creating a new school finance funding formula is required as the two-year block grant program will expire at the end of June. The Kansas Supreme Court said the current funding is unconstitutional and the new formula must address the 25% of students who are lagging their classmates in reading and math. Although the Court did not specify a number for new dollars that are needed, the House committee on K-12 funding has focused on approximately $460 million raised over two years. It also increases the funding after year 2 at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which I believe is a plus. The bill passed out of the House committee and will be debated on the House floor this coming week. The Senate is working on their own version of a funding formula and may get it out of committee soon. Their committee chair, Senator Jim Denning, seems to favor either adding a surcharge on all water, gas, and electric bills or repealing the sales tax exemption for all residential gas and electric customers. The chairman’s goal is to raise about $150 million per year for education.

Our last piece of the puzzle is the state budget, which seems to have gathered less attention than the taxes and school funding. We have not debated the budget bill yet, but I’m pleased to say the House version contains $500,000 for ESU’s School of Nursing, which receives less state funding than nursing programs at other Regents schools. We have an outstanding program that has proven to produce top quality nurses year after year. It should receive appropriate state funding.

Besides the major pieces above, we may also see bills exempting hospitals from allowing concealed carry. That bill could also be expanded to exempt universities. As far as Medicaid expansion, I don’t think it will be voted on again this year. Although I support it, the current discussions in Congress and the inability to get a veto-proof majority in both chambers decreases the chances of getting another shot.

This next week will likely see more action on these priority areas. Since the state does not provide an administrative assistant after 90 days, I no longer have someone to answer calls or schedule appointments, so your patience is appreciated if you call and must leave a message. E-mail is the best way to reach me if you want to pass along a comment or question.

For all the new graduates of our high schools, technical college and university, congratulations on your accomplishments! Best wishes as you pursue new dreams! I can hardly wait to see what you achieve.

I am honored to serve the 60th District and always appreciate your support and feedback.

Contact Me


If you have questions about the activities in my committees or want to share your views on other issues before the legislature, please feel free to e-mail, text or call me. If you are visiting the Capitol, please stop by to say hello.
 
Representative Mark Schreiber
Visit my website at http://www.schreiberforkansas.com/
 
Home
1722 Yucca Lane
Emporia, KS   66801
Home: 620-342-6954
Cell: 785-230-0897
Email: mschreiber82@gmail.com
 
 
Legislative Office
Room 167-W, State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, KS   66612
Phone: 785-296-2721
Email: mark.schreiber@house.ks.gov

 Paid for by Mark Schreiber for Kansas House – Cindy Lore, Treasurer
 

Contact Mark

 

StateHouse Office

Room 167-W
300 SW 10th Street,
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-2721
Mark.Schreiber@house.ks.gov

Home

1722 Yucca Lane
Emporia, Kansas 66801
Phone: 620-342-6954
mark@schreiberforkansas.com  
 

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