The Legislature passed day 80 of the 2013 session. An 80-day session was the goal set at the beginning of the session this year, but stalemate arrived in Kansas. Day 90 is on Thursday, May 23.
The House passes committee reports
The House voted on three conference committee reports this week. They all passed and are on their way to the governor's desk for signature or veto.
1. HB2204 extends the judicial branch surcharge for two more years and allows the judicial branch to use the money to fund the support staff's salaries. This bill was originally about mortgages but the language was replaced with SB218. SB218 is the bill that would have also taken the portion of docket fees that go to organizations such as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children), the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, and Kansas Legal Services, and sent it to the State General Fund. If that were to happen, all these individual organizations would have to appear before the Legislature to ask for money. That section was removed and HB2204 now only extends the surcharge.
2. HB2115 is the combination of HB2115 and HB2114. It amends the rules for temporarily hiring a retired judge when needed and it requires a debtor to pay the cost of debt collection, rather than just deducting it from the debtor's original debt to the court.
3. HB2249 is a combination of three bills, as HB2074 and HB2118 were added. The original HB2249 provides a refund of property tax for fire services if your property falls within two tax districts due to annexation or boundary changes – intent is to protect a property owner from being double taxed for fire services. HB2074 prohibits a city or county from adopting restrictions on solid waste if such restrictions interfere with another city or county that is serviced by the same disposal site and requires the Sec of Health & Environment to prepare a report on solid waste management with recommendations on legislative changes and the cost associated with the changes. HB2118 removes the requirement that proposed projects within 500 feet of a historic property in the city and 1000 feet outside the city, be subject to historic design and appearance restrictions. It restricts historic reviews to projects that would involve, damage or destroy properties on the national or state registries of historic places.
'What ifs?' on the budget and taxes
Now that the large income tax cuts made last year are coming into effect, it seems half the legislature has changed how it looks at the budget. The Senate has become very concerned with the projections of revenue out to 2018, but the House is still focused on the budget being formed this session. While the Revenue Consensus folks (that the legislature uses for future revenue projections in the budget process) have been very accurate in the past, they normally just look one year ahead. They do not have a track record for long term projections.
Page 2 of 2 - While the Senate is now insisting that the sales tax be raised to offset the income tax cuts made last year and that "sales taxes do not matter to economic growth," the House has not agreed. Kansas has the largest state sales tax rate in our region (Kansas – 6.3 percent, Mo. – 4.22 percent, Neb. – 5.5 percent, Colo. – 2.9 percent, Okla. – 4.5 percent). This is especially concerning to communities such as ours, on the border where it is easy for our residents to go next door to Missouri to make their large purchases at a reduced sales tax rate.
The continuation of higher sales taxes will be used to counteract the income tax cuts made last year, without giving Kansas the chance to see if the promised results will come true. Will they produce thousands of new jobs and entice more businesses to move to Kansas and spur economic growth?
Or, will a higher sales tax bring in the money to run our state schools and public safety services, but possibly deter some businesses from making the move for fear of lower sales?
Melanie Meier is from Leavenworth and is the Kansas House Representative for the 41st District.