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Taxes take center state in Senate

POSTED: February 5, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Kansas Sen. Jay Emler

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Talking about taxes. Senate committees have been busy with new bill introductions and hearings throughout the week. The highest profile bill is Senate Bill 78 that implements Governor Brownback's new tax proposal. Hearings were held throughout the week in the Assessment and Taxation committee, with proponents and opponents discussing their support or concern. The Ways and Means committee also discussed the revenue impact of the new tax proposal. According to Secretary of Revenue, Nick Jordan, and Director of Revenue, Richard Cram, generally, the Governor's tax plan will lower individual income tax rates, reduce Kansas itemized deductions, hold sales tax at a steady rate, and automatically reduce individual income tax rates.

Lowering individual income tax rates.In tax years 2014 and 2015, a 2.5 percent rate for income under $15,000 ($30,000 married filing jointly) will be in effect. For tax year 2016 and thereafter, that rate will be reduced to 1.9 percent. The current rates is 3.0.


Reducing Kansas itemized deductions. Governor Brownback plans to achieve this goal by disallowing real property taxes and mortgage interest deductions that are included in federal itemized deductions.


Holding the sales tax rate steady. The current sales tax rate is 6.3 percent, with 4/10 of a cent going to the highway fund in fiscal year 2014. As data shows, sales tax rates have the least negative impact on economic growth relative to other tax types.


I am very concerned the foregoing tax plan will drive the local units of government to increase property taxes. Last year, I did both a scientific poll and a non-scientific poll regarding the concerns of the citizens in the 35th district. Both polls came out essentially the same. Over twice the number of constituents were concerned about property taxes as were concerned about income tax.


Floor Action.Resolutions. The Senate passed Senate Bill 7, which allows the preparation and sampling of alcohol at licensed establishments. Senate Bill 18 also passed and relates to the civil procedure of restraining orders. Senate Bill 20 was passed regarding docket fees and costs, and filing a poverty affidavit.

Two other measures that were debated and passed were SCR 1601 and SB 8. SCR 1601 is the constitutional amendment for the appointment of appellate judges by the Governor with Senate confirmation. This is the political process Kansas had until 60 years ago when the then governor pulled the infamous "triple play." He resigned. The lieutenant governor became governor and then appointed the former governor as chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.

The voters were outraged at the blatant politics of the situation and amended the constitution to provide for merit selection of justices. The system has worked well for 60 years. The resolution provides for an election at the August 2014 primary election. An amendment was offered to have the resolution on the November 2014 general election, but it failed on a vote of 14 yeas and 26 nays. Primary election turnout is approximately 25%. General election turnout is approximately 55%. If we truly want the public to have meaningful input, why would we not want the election held when more people come out to vote?Committee Updates.Agriculture. This week the committee heard presentations from Secretary Dale Rodman from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and from the Executive Director of the KDA Division of Conservation, Greg Foley. Chairman Gary Harshberger from the Kansas Water Authority spoke on the USDA Pond Clean-Up Program. A hearing was held on Senate Bill 56 transferring the recognition of county fair associations from the secretary of agriculture to the board of county commissioners.

Commerce. This week the committee heard an overview from the Department of Commerce by Secretary Pat George and Deputy Secretary Steve Kelly. Duane Cantrell, the President and Chief Executive Officer from the Kansas Bioscience Authority gave the committee an update. Lastly, the committee heard several Economic Development Informational Speakers speak, including Tom Riederer on the Burlington Northern Railway Intermodal Facility.

Natural Resources. This committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 43, which would require the Kansas water office to formulate a plan to address water-related issues. The committee also heard an agency presentation from Robin Jennison, the Secretary of Kansas Wildlife and Parks and the Kansas Water Authority.

Transportation. This week the committee heard presentations on Driver's License Security from Donna Shelite and Dean Reynoldson of the Department of Revenue. Colonel Ernest Garcia and Captain Chris Turner gave a presentation regarding Kansas Highway Patrol. Lindsey Douglas gave a passenger rail overview from the Kansas Department of Transportation.


Ethics, Elections, and Local Government. This week the committee heard a briefing on Home Rule. A hearing was held on Senate Bill 64 discussing elections and party affiliations.

Financial Institutions and Insurance. The committee held hearings on the following bills:

Senate Bill 24. This bill is supported by the Kansas Insurance Department and relates to risk-based capital requirements for property, causality and life insurance companies.Senate Bill 25. This bill is also supported by the Kansas Insurance Department and discusses risk-based capital requirements for health organizations. Senate Bill 26. This bill's proponents include the Kansas Professional Insurance Agents, the Kansas Funeral Directors Association, and the Kansas Insurance Department. The bill involves reporting requirements for lines of insurance. Senate Bill 51. This bill concerns insurance for certain banker's associations.Senate Bill 52. This bill regards mortgage interest rates.

Federal and State Affairs. The committee held hearings on the following bills:

Senate Bill 28. This bill authorizes the division of emergency management within the adjutant general's department to accept certain real property.Senate Bill 34. This bill discusses the membership of the commission on emergency planning and response. Senate Bill 54. This bill amends the board of technical professions.

Judiciary. The committee held hearings on the following bills:

Senate Bill 16. This bill discusses criminal street gangs and the corrupt organization act.Senate Bill 39. This bill relates to the unlawful possession of prescription-only drugs.Senate Bill 40. This bill amends provisions relating to DNA evidence. Senate Bill 41. This bill criminalizes the possession of a firearm during a drug distribution, cultivation, or manufacture.Senate Bill 58. This bill amends the sentencing rules relating to the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Ways and Means. This week the committee heard an update on KPERS from Alan Conroy and a report on the Governor's Education Efficiency Task Force from Ken Willard, a member of the Kansas State Board of Education. Leonard Gilroy, the Director of Government Reform for the Reason Foundation, and James Franko from the Kansas Policy Institute gave a presentation on Savings Opportunities/Efficiencies through Privatization. Nick Jordan, the Secretary of Revenue, gave a presentation on the revenue impact of the Governor's tax proposals.


Education. This week the committee met jointly with the House Education Committee to hear a survey of CTE. A presentation on Project Based Learning and on the National Student Clearinghouse was also given. Communities in schools were discussed, and site visits to Francis Tuttle School and Walton Rural Life Center occurred.


Public Health and Welfare. This week in committee final action occurred on Senate Bill 46, which talks about physical therapists' evaluation and treatment of patients. An overview was given on the Health Industry Organizations Serving Kansas and Health Agencies Reporting to the Governor.

Utilities. This week in committee presentations were given by the Kansas Energy Information Network (KEIN) and the Kansas Policy Institute on the cost of renewable energy standards. Dr. Andy Tompkins, the President and CEO of the Board of Regents gave an update on Kan-Ed. Walter Way gave an update on the 911 Coordinating Council.

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