Capitol Update: How the legislature will try to balance the budget

To keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we feature an update columns each Monday from one of northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Sen. Wolf submits this week’s update:

Last Wednesday, the legislature returned to Topeka to begin its Veto session. Veto session is traditionally used to address bills approved or vetoed by the Governor. However, in recent years it has grown more practically to become a miniature legislative session for remaining issues and to complete work on the budget and revenue.

Kay Wolf
Kay Wolf

Prior to the April break, the Conference Committee on the Budget put together a tentative agreement on a budget but have not signed the agreement in anticipation of adjustments following the April 20 Consensus Revenue. The Governor’s Budget Amendment was presented to the House Appropriations Committee. It included 11 items totaling approximately $74 million in savings. The bulk of the savings came from caseload adjustments and bond refinancing. The House and Senate budget committees will continue to meet to craft the omnibus budget which will ultimately balance the budget. A balanced budget is a requirement of the Kansas constitution. The judicial budget will also be worked as it is free standing from the rest of the budget.Obviously, balancing of the budget relies on revenue. The tax committees will begin putting together the revenue package this week. Below are some bills that could potentially be a part of the tax package. The tax debate centers around the dollars needed to fill the budget hole plus an additional $100 million to provide the state with flexibility with continued revenues coming in under estimates.

SB233: Increases the tax on cigarettes, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages
SB234: Freezes the income tax rates, accelerates deductions
SB258: Eliminates the exemption for the first $20k of appraised value for the 20 mils
SB260: Eliminates the exemption on passive income
SB261: Imposes a sales tax on residential utilities
SB264: Eliminates the sales tax exemption on farm machinery and equipment
SB287: Makes all tax credits nonrefundable except EITC
SB296: Establishes the 2015 tax rates as permanent and eliminates future reductions.

Increasing of the current sales tax has also been talked about and likely to happen.

Prior to the April break the Conference Committee on Local Government signed a conference committee report (HB 2104) moving local elections to the fall of even years, keeping them non-partisan and placed them at the top of the ballot. The conference committee report has not been voted on by either chamber to date. The Senate passed their version earlier that moved the elections to the fall of odd numbered years and kept the races non-partisan.

SB 117 required Uber drivers to certify that they had insurance as well as undergo a background check by the KBI. The bill passed the Senate 35-2 and the House 107-16. However, during the break the Governor vetoed the bill. The House and Senate have the ability to override the Governor’s veto if they choose to do so. Certainly the initial vote indicates the margins are large enough. There is also talk of a new bill being brought forward and negotiations continue between Uber, Kansas financial institutions and key lawmakers.

It is uncertain how long the veto session will last as passing a budget in both Chambers may be difficult. Day 90 of the legislative session is Saturday, May 16. However, the legislature has the authority to extend past 90 days and it will be necessary if an agreement on a budget is not made by the 90th day.