KEPC UPDATE: Unthinkable, taxes & budget, Medicaid expansion, turnaround, surprises

In this issue …

  • Unthinkable?
  • Where we are on taxes and budget
  • Medicaid expansion passes House
  • We are at the turnaround
  • Is a surprise coming?
  • Bill Tracking

 

Unthinkable?

At the halfway point of the 2017 Kansas Legislature, lawmakers have taken actions that would have been unthinkable heresy by the 2016 Kansas Legislature, which was much more conservative.

The turning points were the August and November elections where voters upset with years of state budget turmoil voted for candidates who promised to fix the problem.

Here’s the shorthand.

  • On Wednesday, Governor Sam Brownback vetoed Substitute for House Bill 2178, the income tax bill that would have gone a long way toward fixing Kansas structural budget problems.
  • On Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives successfully overrode the Governor’s veto by a vote of 85 to 40. It takes 84 votes to override a veto in the House.  Here’s how they voted.
  • Later that day the Senate vote to override the veto was not successful. It was 24 to 16.  27 votes are needed to override.  Here’s how the senate voted.
  • After a lengthy debate on Wednesday, the House passed Medicaid expansion Thursday by a vote of 81 to 44. That is not a veto proof majority.  Here’s how they voted.

New legislators tended toward discouragement, but those who have been around longer see this as a monumental change from less than a year ago, when such actions would have been unthinkable.

 

Where we are on taxes and budget

With the failure by three votes to override the Governor’s veto of the income tax bill, here’s what’s happening.

Both the House and Senate Tax Committees met briefly “at the rail” on the 3rd floor of the Statehouse Thursday and passed out bills that could be part of a new tax package.

The House Taxation Committee bills:

  • House Bill 2370 is very similar to the vetoed bill.
  • House Bill 2315, which is the Governor’s tax bill with small tax increases (it depends on one-time fixes)
  • A bill requested by Rep. Ken Rahjes (R-Agra) that is basically the vetoed bill with two income tax brackets instead of three
  • A bill by Rep. Erin Davis (R-Olathe) that has to do with non-wage income

The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee bills:

  • Senate Bill 175, the Governor’s tax bill
  • A suggestion by Sen. Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), the Senate Majority Leader, which is the vetoed bill without retroactivity on individual income tax rate increases. Those increases would take effect in 2018 rather than 2017 and cost the state about $100 million
  • Committee Chair Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) asked for an income tax bill suggested last year by then-Senate Tax Chairman Les Donovan (R-Wichita). It’s unclear what this bill does.
  • A bill that suspends the PEAK program (Providing Employment Across Kansas) for one year, requested by Sen. Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City)
  • A bill requested by Sen. Holland that includes modifications to PEAK.

Please note that we do not have details of some of these bills and they might not be available for more than a week.

The overall thinking is that if most of the “yes” votes will hold, tweaking the brackets or retroactivity could bring in the three senate votes needed to pass an override.

With the Governor’s veto sustained and bills that raise less money now in the mix, senate budget writers are going to begin to look at where to cut the budget.  They appear to be looking at cuts that assume that some income tax bill will pass, but one that will not cover all of expected future shortfalls for a few years.

 

Medicaid expansion passes House

The Kansas House of Representatives took House Bill 2044, which had to do with programs designed to alleviate emotional and behavior problems, and changed it to include Medicaid expansion, passing it 81 to 44.

The action came after the House Health and Human Services Committee tabled Medicaid expansion by one vote.

Here’s a link to the Legislative Research description of the bill.

The bill would expand eligibility for Medicaid to an estimated 150,000-plus residents of Kansas.

31 states, many with Republican governors, have already expanded Medicaid.  In addition to providing many Kansans with health care insurance (paid largely by the federal government) the measure is seen as relief for overburdened health care providers.  Many painted expansion as a way to help rural health care facilities which are in danger of closing.

Opponents point out that Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which President Trump and many in Congress promise to “repeal and replace.”

Supporters say it’s unlikely that the president and congress will take health care away from large numbers of Americans.

 

We are at the turnaround

The Kansas Legislature is now on a ten-day unpaid break.  Thursday was the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin.

House bills must be passed by the House; Senate bills must be passed by the Senate or they are dead for the session.  However, bills from certain exempt committees are still alive.

This period is called the turnaround and is supposed to mark the halfway point of the legislative session.  The turnaround break is normally only four or five days.  The unusually long break is supposed to help save days for later in the session when difficult decisions might be faced.

 

Is a surprise coming?

Here’s a quick reminder that the Kansas Supreme Court could yet throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings.  Lawmakers know that a decision could come any day now on the school finance lawsuit that challenges the adequacy of state funding for public education.

A court ruling in favor of the school districts that are suing the state could force lawmakers to find an additional $150 million to $500 million.

 

Bill tracking

Here’s our latest bill tracking on measures we think are of interest to our readers.

You should be able to click on the bill number and be taken to the Kansas Legislature’s web site page for that particular bill.  You will be able to see all actions taken, read the bill, and read any supplemental notes (layman’s descriptions) and fiscal notes (how much does the bill cost the state) that have been prepared.