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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Legislative Update - Week Ten

  • The tenth week proved to be very busy, yet productive for the House with passage of a budget and tax plan, setting the stage for the end of session.
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  • The tenth week proved to be very busy, yet productive for the House with passage of a budget and tax plan, setting the stage for the end of session. The only requirement for the Legislature is to pass a budget each session; and with the time table the House leadership has set, we are still on pace to finish in 80 days.
    The next stage for the session is for the House and Senate to meet in a conference committee.
    This is the process by which differences in bills are discussed and negotiations between different positions take place. Each chamber presents their bill and positions along with what they like and don't like about the other chamber's bill. The top three members of each committee represent their respective chamber's position in the negotiations. When both sides believe they have an
    equitable agreement, they submit their report back to their respective chambers and each body votes on the plan. If it passes both chambers, it goes to the governor for his signature or veto. If
    either house rejects the agreement, they go back to conference to find another agreement. The conference committee process happens for each bill which has differences from what the other
    chamber passed.
    Budget
    Last year, the state passed the largest tax cut in history by significantly reducing state income tax rates and eliminating income taxes on small and corporate business owners for non-wage revenue. The goal for the 2013 Legislative Session is to continue to concentrate on lowering our
    state's income tax. With last year's ambitious tax cut and the continued drive to ratchet down the tax rates, the legislature has focused on responsible spending habits with particular attention to
    finding efficiencies in state government. The House Taxation and Appropriations Committees have worked in tandem to ensure the state will continue to meet its obligations while also continuing on a glide path to zero state income tax.
    In order to fund the core functions of government and to provide the means to buy down income tax rates, the House debated its proposed budget (Substitute for HB 2231), which has an ending
    balance of $386.8 million in FY 2014 and $104.8 million in FY 2015. This year, the governor proposed a two-year budget rather than a normal one-year budget in order to address budget challenges up front.
    The House budget includes $211.4 million in additional savings over two years as compared to the governor's recommendation, and was done without making cuts to K-12 education, public safety, or state hospitals. Included in these savings is the reduced resource package, which includes $25 million in cuts, identified by state agencies themselves. Additional legislation will be considered after the annual April break to consider supplementary funding requests of state
    agencies, departments, and programs.
    Page 2 of 3 - Tax
    On Wednesday of this week, the House took up the tax plan that was passed out of committee last week and debated it on the floor. The plan would continue the Governor's drive to get personal income tax to zero. However, the House plan would also add a 2% growth in revenue
    trigger mechanism in the roll out to ensure revenues are available to sustain the income tax drop.
    So, as state revenues grow above 2% from the previous year, those excess funds would be used to buy down the income tax.
    The House plan would also sunset the sales tax increase which was passed three years ago. On July 1st, the sales tax would drop to 5.7% from 6.3% statewide. Also on 1 July, .4% of the sales tax would be redirected from the state general fund to the state highway plan to fund TWORKS.
    This has been an important piece for many Kansans as it ensures high quality roads as well as construction jobs across the state.
    Income tax deductions would also begin to be phased out, but would drop at the same rate as the income taxes. This way, we preserve the deductions while buying down their value at the same speed as the rates drop.
    Also included in this plan is an accelerated drop in the lower income tax bracket. It is weighted so that the lower tax rate goes down twice as much as the percentage increase and the higher
    bracket goes down half as much. This would provide increased relief for the state's lower income taxpayers. As mentioned above, the House will now meet with the Senate to work out differences in the two plans which should begin early next week.
    Pro-Life Legislation
    This week, the House passed HB 2253, which would serve to further protect the lives of the unborn in Kansas by ensuring that no taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize abortions and by revising other abortion statutes. Through passage of this bill, the House looks to continue
    developing a culture of life in Kansas by defending the right to life. The solemn duty of the state to defend this fundamental right is affirmed in HB 2253.
    Significantly, the bill would add a statutory provision that would declare that the life of each human being begins at fertilization. Accordingly, all state laws would be to be interpreted and construed to protect the rights, privileges, and immunities of the unborn child, only subject to the U.S. Constitution and interpretations by the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, additional new language would be required in certain printed materials to inform pregnant women about the development
    of the unborn child, legal responsibilities for the unborn child, and organizations to assist the pregnant woman.
    Page 3 of 3 - The bill would prohibit the use of public funding, tax credits, tax preferences, and state-provided public health care services from being used in any manner to facilitate abortions or in facilities
    where abortions are performed. It also would prohibit any school district, its employees, agents, and education service providers from offering abortion services and abortion providers would be
    restricted from sponsoring, offering, or furnishing any course materials or instruction related to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases in public schools.
    Historic and Religious Public Displays
    On Tuesday, the House debated HB 2037 dealing with the display of religious and historic artifacts on public property. In many of our local municipal buildings and state buildings here in Kansas, we have different historical displays, some with religious significance, which the legislature believes should be protected and should have a place in our local communities.
    This bill protects the historic tradition religious symbols have played in our state heritage. As with many historic buildings in Kansas, including the state capitol, there are many parts of our buildings which are reflections of the history of Kansas and should be protected. Supporters of the bill included several representatives who testified as well as Mark Tallman, the executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards.
    Final Action Votes
    Many bills were passed through for final action. For a complete review of these bills, go to www.kslegislature.org.
    I encourage you to let me know your thoughts on the issues discussed by the legislature and others which might be affecting you. Please feel free to call me at 785-296-7563 or e-mail John.Bradford@house.ks.gov. Thank you for the honor of serving you!

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