In this issue….

  • K-12 FUNDING
  • TAX

The package of transportation bills finally started to see movement with most of having hearings in both the House and Senate committees this past week. KEPC provided testimony in support of several bills related to funding the recommendations of the Transportation Task Force including:

  • Increased fees for oversized and overweight vehicles;
  • Changes to the local ad valorum tax and exemptions to the tax lid for local municipalities for transportation projects;
  • Increased registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles;Increased motor fuel taxes; and
  • Allowance for partial tolling to cover costs of new transportation construction (Current law requires toll projects to be 100% funded through tolling).

The effort to expand Medicaid was hit with two setbacks this week. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee stripped funding for Medicaid expansion from Governor Kelly’s proposed budget on a vote of 12-11. In a similar move, the Senate Ways and Means Committee also stripped the proposed $14 million from expansion and instead reallocated the funding to a program supporting physicians who treat Medicaid patients.

Last week, the Kansas Senate Select Committee on Education Finance passed out SB 142 to the full Senate. The bill authorizes approximately $90 million in new funding for the next four years to account for inflation. On Thursday evening, the full Senate approved the bill on a vote of 32-8 and has referred it to the House K-12 Education Budget Committee.

However, the House introduced its version of school funding legislation this week: HB 2395. The new plan, developed by Republican state Rep. Kristey Williams, chair of the K-12 Education Budget Committee, would put $90 million into schools in 2020 and 2021 but not in 2022 and 2023 and included several policy changes and additions. Opponent testimony was Thursday, with oral testimony from KNEA, KSAB and Equality Kansas as well as dozens of written opponent testimony from individual school boards, education advocacy organizations and more. Proponent testimony will be on Monday of next week. With only two weeks left until the end of regular session, it will be interesting to see how this will unfold.

On Thursday, the full Senate debated a motion to concur with the House version of SB22, the tax “windfall bill.” If you will recall, the House included internet sales tax and a reduction in the food sales tax to the original version of SB22. The discussion in the Senate was whether or not to agree with the House version.  The Senate approved the motion to concur by a vote of 24-16.  The bill now goes to Governor Kelly for her signature, or more likely, her veto.

Confirmation hearings for two of Governor Kelly’s nominees for state agency secretaries will be next week.Monday, March 18 – Julie Lorenz, Secretary of TransportationWednesday, March 20 – David Toland, Secretary of Commerce

My hopes as we enter the remaining two weeks of session:

I hope we’ve seen the last of the social issue-related debates for this session. I understand and appreciate that certain members of the legislature feel passionately about these issues, however I’d like us to get back to the critical work of funding state government services.

I hope the House approves the Senate-passed version of SB 142, the Governor signs it into law, and the Supreme Court accepts the Legislature’s remedy for funding K-12 education as constitutional.

I hope a path presents itself to allow debate on Medicaid expansion. Studies have shown that the majority of Kansans support it.  Previous votes taken show that a majority of legislators will vote in favor of it. It’s time to allow the debate.

Thanks and as always, I appreciate the opportunity to represent KEPC’s interests in Topeka. Please contact me anytime with any questions or comments.