Capitol Update: Questions about the ‘flat tax’ proposal, and relief at the creation of a K-12 finance committee in the Senate

Jay Senter - March 20, 2017 11:00 am
Sen. Barbara Bollier.
Sen. Barbara Bollier.

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. Incoming Sen. Barbara Bollier submits this week’s update:

This past week, the Senate debated and passed what is commonly referred to as the “rescission bill.” Senate Sub for Sub HB 2052 fills the nearly $350 million budget hole for Fiscal Year 2017.

During debate, the Senate President brought forward an amendment for a 2 percent across-the-board cut for the remaining fiscal year, which failed. This was followed by more attempts to cut at lesser levels. All cuts amendments failed, and I voted NO on all amendments to cut. To be clear, our state budgets have been cut nine times since the 2012 tax plan was adopted. Also of note, the state has reduced its employees by 2,816 since that time.

Here are some of the key points of the rescission bill:

  • Takes $163 million out of the Pooled Money Investment Board fund to be paid back over ten years
  • Has a total reduction to KPERS of $150 million, all from the State General Fund, below the amount requested by KPERS–School
  • Adds $15 million, all from the State General Fund, for reduced FY 2017 KPERS–School employer contributions for FY 2018 through FY 2037. Repayments of the FY 2017-reduced contributions of $150 million for KPERS–School is to be restored to the KPERS Trust Fund over 20 years starting in FY 2018 at $15 million per year;
  • Transfers $115.5 million, all from the State General Fund, to the KPERS Trust Fund to make the delayed FY 2016 KPERS employer contributions with 8.0 percent interest for FY 2018
  • Eliminates $87.7 million, including $40.3 million from the State General Fund, for Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Services in FY 2017;

The bill passed the Senate 27-13 including my “aye” vote. Because the Senate amended this bill after the House passed it, it will go back to the House for another vote, where the House must either 1) accept the Senate’s amendments, which would send the bill to the Governor’s desk, or 2) deny the Senate’s amendments, triggering the need for a Conference Committee. A Conference Committee consists of the committee chair, vice-chair, and ranking minority member from each chamber who meet to resolve the differences between the House’s and Senate’s version of a bill. Once the Conference Committee comes to a compromise, that version of the bill is sent to both the House and the Senate for a final vote before sending the bill to the Governor’s desk.

We have been told the Senate will debate a flat tax bill next week. A flat tax means there is one income tax bracket for everyone, something I do not support. It does not appear that there are enough votes in either the House or Senate to pass a flat tax, so I am unclear why we must debate such a bill.

In other Senate news, we FINALLY have a special committee in place to create a school funding formula that meets the Supreme Court’s approval. I am very pleased to have been appointed to this committee and am eager to find a new way to adequately and equitably fund our public-school students. The Court has set a June 30 deadline for this formula to be submitted.

The next two weeks will bring tremendous activity in both chambers. A Medicaid Expansion bill will be heard this week, bills to eliminate the concealed-carry laws pending for campuses and state medical facilities continue to be debated, and multiple bills are out of committee waiting to be worked by the full Senate. Know that all of your northeast Johnson County legislators are working diligently for you. We are all available by e-mail or phone at the Capitol, so feel free to contact us as needed.

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