Capitol Update: Tax reform needed so ‘we can invest in the people of Kansas, our schools, our children, and our roads’

Jarrod-Ousleyt

Each legislative session, we provide northeast Johnson County’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jarrod Ousley submits this week’s update:

This week the legislature reached “turnaround,” the roughly halfway point in the 2017 session. Turnaround is the deadline in which each chamber of the legislature must pass the bills before them, and send them to the opposite chamber or the bills “die.” Bills from certain exempt committees, such as Ways and Means, Fed and State, and Appropriations can still be worked, but for all other bills, the last few days were our last opportunity to make them move this session, and fortunately, on a few key bills, the House did.

Medicaid Expansion
After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Kansas legislature refused to expand Medicaid coverage to approximately 180,000 Kansans, who under Kansas restrictions make too much (roughly $6,000 for a family of three), but too little to qualify for subsidies from the federal government to help cover the expense of purchasing the insurance. Two years ago, Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of Hospitals and Health Care Organizations, conducted a review which revealed that roughly 420 Kansans die as a result of Kansas’ refusal to pass Medicaid Expansion. In addition, the hospital in Independence, Kansas recently closed and other hospitals throughout state have been under financial uncertainty. The billion dollars expansion would return to our state would help stabilize these hospitals.

Earlier this month, a bill to expand Medicaid was heard in the House Health committee, but the bill was tabled. Supporters of expansion requested that the Speaker exempt the bill from the turnaround deadline, so that the bill would remain viable. On Tuesday, the Speaker issued a statement saying that he would not grant an exemption. Shortly after this news was received, Minority Leader Rep. Jim Ward, invoked a rarely used House rule that allows the full House to pull a bill out of committee and force it to the floor for a vote. As a result, an agreement was struck to allow an amendment attaching Medicaid expansion to another bill. After several representatives spoke in favor of expansion, the amendment passed by 83-40. Expansion now moves to the Senate. To paraphrase our former Vice President, this is a big deal.

Revenue Reform
The Senate and House passed a comprehensive revenue reform bill last week. The bill made three vital structural changes to our tax structure: (1) it reinstated a third top tier income tax for higher income earners; (2) returned the pass through income of LLCs and S-Corps back to the tax rolls; and (3) it repealed the ratchet mechanism that the Governor called the “glide path to zero” which automatically ratcheted income tax rates down. These are the three measure I campaigned for, and I supported this bill. In addition to this, it allowed health care expenses to again be deducted.

The Governor promptly vetoed the bill.

The House promptly overrode his veto. I voted for the override.

The Senate, however, was three votes shy of an override. This will mean additional debate and new bills must be heard. Our State needs this reform so that we can invest in the people of Kansas, our schools, our children, and our roads.

Due Process
In another procedural move, local NEJC Rep. Jerry Stogsdill (D), brought an amendment to reinstate due process for educators. After the Committee Chair gaveled the last committee hearing out early, rather than letting the committee vote on the measure, there was some concern that we might not have a chance to vote on the measure this session. Due Process protects educators who advocate for their students from reprisal termination, and is a much needed measure to help retain quality teachers in our state. I supported the amendment.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve the 24th District. My office in Topeka has moved to 452-S and I can be reached at (785) 296-7366 at jarrod.ousley@house.ks.gov and www.facebook.com/JarrodOusleyforthe24th. In addition to the updates here in the Post, you can sign up for my newsletter here and receive bi-weekly updates directly.