This weekend legislators from across Kansas will be packing up and preparing to head to Topeka on Monday for the start of the 2013 legislative session. The legislature will officially “gavel in” at 2 p.m. on Monday January 14th marking the official start of the session. On Tuesday January 15th Governor Brownback will present his annual State of the State address, outlining his policy vision for the state and the items he would like to see the legislature address during their 90 days of work in the Capitol.
After a very contentious and hard fought campaign season the first clear observations of the 2013 legislature are the number of new faces and the significant shift in leadership (specifically in the Senate). On Monday, 55 new representatives (the largest number of new members in 42 years) will report for duty in the House and 16 new senators (the most new members since 1993) will report to the upper chamber. Some of these 71 members have served previously or served in the House before being elected to the Senate, but the majority will be serving their first day as a legislator. The learning curve will be steep for these new legislators, as they will be faced with a set of significant challenges for our state, chiefly the budgetary and fiscal challenges we now face.
Fiscal and Budgetary Issues Likely To Dominate
According to January estimates from Legislative Research the projected budget shortfall legislators must address is $267 million. The fact of this projected deficit will loom over all other discussions during the session. Obviously this shortfall must be addressed through revenue enhancements (via sales or income tax increases or changes), spending cuts, or some combination of the same.
One possible consideration will be extension of the six tenths statewide sales tax set to expire at the end of June. Extension of this sales tax would add around $250 million in revenue. Securing the votes to extend this tax may be difficult though given that a number of legislators campaigned against the sales tax (either in this or previous election cycles). Another possible consideration may be an effort to “broaden” the tax base through elimination of certain deductions and credits. Success for this option is even more questionable given the fact that the deductions which would provide the most significant impact on deficit reduction are also the most popular – namely the mortgage and charitable deductions. The final issue, on the revenue side, is the option of tweaking or reconsidering certain aspects and implementation of the income tax reform passed last session.
We’ll know quite a bit more about the direction of fiscal and budget discussions after Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address on Tuesday evening and the release of his budget report the next morning. You’ll be able to access the Governor’s full budget proposal after 8 a.m. on Wednesday January 16th at the Kansas Division of Budget website.
PSU’s 2013 Legislative Advocacy Priorities
Our advocacy agenda for 2013 is essentially threefold:
• Preserve base funding to Pittsburg State University.
• Secure second year funding of our new Polymer Chemistry degree program.
• Build support for the establishment of the Kansas Center for Career Technical Education Instructor Development and Innovation at the KTC.