2017 KS Legislature: First Half Update

The Kansas Legislature adjourned last Thursday, officially completing the first half of the 2017 Legislative Session. Turnaround break, however, did not come before some unexpected twists and turns. With the House able to pass Medicaid expansion and override a Governor veto, this week saw the new moderate Republican/Democrat majority in Kansas beginning to take shape.

Taxes

In a news conference Wednesday morning, Governor Sam Brownback officially announced his veto of House Bill 2178, the Legislature’s tax plan for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. While the House voted 85-40 to override the Governor’s veto (84 votes needed), the Senate’s vote failed 24-16 (27 votes needed) and killed the bill.

Back to the drawing board, both the Senate and House Tax committees met informally at the rail yesterday to introduce new tax plans. One is the Governor’s proposal, which raises cigarette and liquor taxes but keeps LLCs exempt. Another is identical to the vetoed bill without the retroactivity on individual income tax increases, which some believe was the reason many Senators didn’t support the override. Other ideas range from removing the top, third tax bracket, repealing the non-wage income exemption, and suspending the PEAK program (Providing Employment Across Kansas). Both Chambers are expected to start running new tax bills after the break.

Transportation

On Monday, the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget committee added a proviso directing the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) to bond $400 million toward T-WORKS reconstruction and maintenance projects in FY18 and FY19.

Currently, KDOT has budgeted $42 million in FY18 and $245 million in FY19 for preservation projects. The added funding will help the department reach the average funding of $350 million per year. Chairman J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) will present the subcommittee’s report to the full Appropriations committee on Monday, March 6 for review and approval. We continue to advocate and have active involvement in an expanded four lane Highway 69 between Fort Scott and Pittsburg and onto the Oklahoma border.

Looking Ahead

Lawmakers will return to Topeka on Monday, March 6 to start the second half of the legislative session and continue tackling the $1.1 billion budget shortfall through FY19. Since the remaining tax packages on the table all raise less money than the bill vetoed by the Governor, a budget bill that includes cuts appears likely. Legislators are also anxiously awaiting a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court on school funding adequacy, which may require millions of additional dollars appropriated to K-12 education.

It remains important not only for the university but our supporters to have continued advocacy in regard to the budget for no further cuts to higher education.

We’ll continue to provide legislative updates moving forward. For the most up-to-date information, follow us on Twitter @CapitolGorilla.

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