This week was busy as House members worked on passing a budget and tax plan in addition to 25 other bills.
Week Ten / March 18th - 22nd. This week was busy as House members worked on passing a budget and tax plan in addition to 25 other bills. House and Senate Conference Committee members have already begun to work out their differences on the 2014 / 2015 budget. They are working on a two year budget to address future budget challenges up front. This week was also the last opportunity for non-exempt committees to meet this session. Exempt committees taxation, appropriations, and Fed and State will continue to meet. There is only two weeks left in this legislative session and there are dozens of bills waiting to be considered. For some of these bills time is running out. Many of the bills that do advance will go to Conference Committees and those committees must finish their work by April 3rd. As you can see there will be a lot of activity during the next two weeks. There may be some late night sessions as we near the completion of the 2013 regular session. DROP DEAD DAY is Friday, April 5th. Budget In 2012 Kansas legislators passed the largest tax cut in the history of Kansas. Beginning the process of reducing personal state income tax and eliminating income taxes on small and corporate businesses for non-wage revenue. This year's plan is to continue to reduce income taxes and focus on responsible spending by looking for efficiencies in government agencies. Thanks to the pay-go rule that was adopted by both chambers we've managed to stay within budget parameters. The "pay-go" rule requires any proposed spending changes from committee recommendations to be offset by corresponding cuts. The House Taxation and Appropriations Committees have worked together to make sure the state meets its obligations as we continue to reduce income taxes. I think this needs repeating, controlling state spending and reducing income taxes for small business owners and Kansas citizens is the key to growing our economy. The Kansas Department of Commerce reported that Kansas is ranked first in the seven states West North Central Region. That includes the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Kansas had the most economic development projects in the region over past three years. In 2010 Kansas was dead last in private sector job creation, now we are 13th Nationally and our unemployment numbers have dropped from 7% to 5.7%. House Passes Tax Plan The tax plan passed by the House is designed to continue the march to zero income tax for Kansas citizens and small businesses. The plan builds on the income tax reductions passed last year and ensures continued tax cuts for all Kansans. The new plan calls for cuts in tax rates to be based on revenue growth, with the poorest workers receiving the largest share of the tax reductions. The House plan leaves nearly $390 million as a ending balance in FY 2014. It's important that we maintain a healthy ending balance. This ensures that the state has the ability to fund school and other obligations on time. One of the major differences between the House plan and the Senate plan concerns the state's sales tax rate. The Senate Tax plan keeps the state's sales tax rate at 6.3%. The House Tax plan allows the sales tax to drop from the current 6.3% to 5.7% on July 1. Here's a question for you. If Kansas keeps the current sales tax rate at 6.3% we will be able to buy down income tax reductions faster as we march towards zero income tax. This may eventually lead to the state's adoption of the Fair Tax which is strictly a consumption tax, (sales tax). Would you prefer to keep the current 6.3% sales tax as proposed by the Senate or drop back to the 5.7% sales tax in July ? Property Taxes
This week the House approved HB 2047 which enhances property tax transparency. Currently, property taxes go up whenever assessed valuations go up. This bill eliminates automatic property tax increases which result from increases in assessed property values. If property values go up and local government officials feel the need for additional revenue, based on those new assessed property values, they must vote for the increases. If the local unit of government does not take a vote, the bill requires the mill levy to be lowered to ensure property taxes stay the same rate as the previous year. The bill does not limit the amount of revenue local units of government can collect through property tax. It's important for homeowners to know that if this bill becomes law, and if they see a rise in their property taxes over the previous year, it's because local elected officials voted to raise their property taxes. Passage of this bill should cause local elected officials to think twice before raising your property taxes. These officials will have to justify any property tax increases with voters. HB 2047 passed by a vote of 68 to 53. The bill now goes to the senate for their consideration. Pro-Life Legislation The House approved HB 2253 this week. This bill is aimed at protecting the lives of unborn children and ensuring that taxpayer dollars never subsidize abortions in Kansas. This bill prohibits any school district , its employees, agents, and education service providers from offering abortion services. The bill also states that abortion providers would be restricted from sponsoring, offering, or furnishing any course materials or instructions related to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases in public schools. The bill declares that life begins at fertilization and that all state laws should be interpreted to protect the rights, privileges and immunities of the unborn, subject to U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the U.S. Constitution. The bill puts into statute specific Kansas Department of Health and Environment materials that women must be given 24 hours before an abortion. That new language will be added to the 1997 Woman's Right to Know Law which requires abortion facilities to provide women with printed materials informing them about the development of an unborn child, legal responsibilities for the unborn child, and information about organizations which assist pregnant women. The bill also directs that women must be given information at least 24 hour in advance, in writing, about the name of the physician who will perform the abortion and a description of the proposed abortion method. It is important for women to have access to all relevant information so they can make fully informed decisions before undergoing an abortion. HB 2253 passed by a vote of 92 to 31. It now goes to the senate for their consideration. Preservation and Religious Freedom Act. On Tuesday, the House debated HB 2037 dealing with the display of religious and historic artifacts on public property. In many public buildings there are historical displays with religious symbols, which the legislature believes should be protected. This bill protects the historic traditional religious symbols that have played an important part in our state heritage, including the ones in the state capitol. HB 2203 reinforces both our religious and parental rights. The Religious Freedom Act outlines clear religious freedom definitions and affirms that the government shall not place burdens on a person's right to exercise their religion. This Religious Freedom Act passed the House by a vote of 109 to 14 and was subsequently approved by the Senate by a vote of 34 to 4. It's on its way to the governor. Other Final Action Votes This week several bills were advanced including 18 bills that originated in the senate and several House bills. Most of these bills were passed with large bi-partisan majorities. You can track the progress of these bills at, www.kslegislature.org There is only a few days left to consider legislation this session. I encourage you to let me know your thoughts and concerns on issues being discussed by the legislature. Please feel free to call me, 785-296-7683, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Kansas House. Connie O'Brien, State Representative, District 42.