KEPC UPDATE: Gov. Colyer, revenue up in Jan, tax chair asks for help, STAR Bonds, transpo task force, rural broadband, labor market, oil & gas, county profiles available

In this issue …

  • Colyer sworn in as governor
  • Revenues up in January
  • Tax Chairman asks for help on how to proceed
  • Proposed changes to STAR Bonds
  • Changes made to transportation task force bill
  • Committee hears rural broadband presentation
  • Kansas labor market report
  • State of the Kansas oil and gas industry
  • Kansas county profiles now available


Colyer sworn in as governor

Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer is now the Governor of Kansas.  Colyer was sworn in Wednesday afternoon on the first floor of the Statehouse.  He replaces Sam Brownback, who has been appointed an ambassador at large for international religious freedom by President Donald Trump.

There wasn’t much news coming out of the swearing in, but earlier in the week, Colyer, a physician, told reporters he favored expanding Medicaid in Kansas.


Revenues up in January

The State of Kansas collected $165 million more than expected in taxes in January.  Secretary of Revenue Sam Williams said the increase is the result of federal tax changes in 2017.

Williams said the federal tax changes encouraged taxpayers to pay state and local taxes before the end of 2017.  That’s because the new federal law does not allow those taxes to be deducted in 2018.

Kansas revenues are now $249 million above estimates for the fiscal year, or 6.7 percent.


Tax Chairman asks for help on how to proceed

At Tuesday’s meeting of the House Taxation Committee, Chairman Steve Johnson (R-Assaria) asked committee members for their thoughts on how to proceed this year in light of the Kansas Supreme Court decision on school finance.

“I would prefer to wait on revenue, but the court has another idea,” said Johnson, referring to the deadline imposed by the court on a solution.

“We need to have a plan in front of us and how we satisfy the courts,” Johnson said.  “The legislature does not want to shut schools, but how do we address this issue?”

Johnson said the committee may begin looking at the revenue problem next week.  “I would prefer to do nothing,” said Johnson, “but I’m afraid that may not be an option.”


Proposed changes to STAR Bonds

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee and others are looking at possible changes to the state’s STAR Bonds program (Sales Tax And Revenue).  Committee Chair Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) says she’s still working on a reform bill, but wants to get it right.  Lynn called the issue “complex and politically charged.”

Lynn’s comments came this week as Commerce Department official Bob North delivered the annual report on STAR Bonds to the committee.  North said there are eleven active projects and another five have been approved but bonds have not yet been issued.

Lynn gave some hints about what will be in the bill and the future of STAR Bonds:

  • Online shopping will affect the ability to do projects in the future.
  • The bill limits projects to within five miles of a competitor. For example, a Menards cannot compete with a Lowe’s.
  • No landscaping will be permitted using STAR Bonds.
  • The bill requires input from local tourism organizations.
  • The state investment must be the same as the local investment in a project.
  • Transparency will be a significant part of the legislation with requirements for significant information on each project.


Changes made to transportation task force bill

The Senate Ways and Means began working on the bill (SB 285) that creates a transportation task force to study a future transportation program.

The committee added these amendments to the bill:

  • Representatives are added from the Portland Cement Association, the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Star Association, the Kansas Asphalt and Pavement Association and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
  • Economic Lifelines would be required to appoint a rural and an urban member to the task force.
  • Other members added were an airport representative and someone to represent UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Work on the bill is not completed and will continue at future meetings.


Committee hears rural broadband presentation

The House Agriculture Committee held an informational hearing this week on expansion of rural broadband service.

Josh Roe with the Kansas Department of Agriculture spoke about the importance of broadband in rural areas to economic development, allowing adoption of the latest cutting edge technology in areas that are currently underserved.

Roe said new ag technology often requires significant download and upload capability, adding that broadband access is required to attract a quality workforce and provide for a quality family experience for those employees and their families.

Agriculture groups and individuals spoke about the need for broadband, while technology companies discussed the high cost of providing service in rural areas.

Legislation has been introduced to establish a task force to some up with recommendations on the dilemma.


Kansas labor market report

The latest Kansas Labor Market Report for December of 2017 has been released.  The Kansas Department of Labor says total nonfarm employment grew 0.4 percent from December of 2016 to December of 2017.  That’s about 6,300 jobs.

Here’s a link to the part of the report that breaks out job growth by industry sector.


 State of the Kansas oil and gas industry

The House Appropriations Committee heard an update on the oil and gas industry in Kansas, a segment of the economy that is being blamed by many for the state’s economic growth problems.

The committee discussed an emerging problem facing the industry.

The Russian government provided a loan to Venezuela using that country’s Citgo assets as collateral.  Many believe that Venezuela will default on the loan and the Russian government could shut down ten percent of U.S. refining assets through its interest in Citgo.

Asked about the impact on Kansas, Edward Cross, President of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association, said if Venezuela defaults on the loan, it could have a Katrina-like impact on the gasoline market, leading to a glut on the market.


Kansas County profiles now available

The latest Kansas County Profile Report is now available from the University of Kansas.

The report contains the most recent population, socio-economic and employment data.  Profiles are available for all 105 counties.  County reports can be generated for any county in Kansas by clicking on the county from the website.

Each report contains twelve categories of information: population, vital statistics and health, housing, education, social environment, business, employment, income, banking, government, crime, and agriculture.


Bill tracking

Here’s our latest bill tracking on measures we think are of interest to our readers.  All of these bills are held over from 2017.  As new bills of interest are introduced, I will add them to the list.

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.