The “new Kansas”

Syndicated to Kansas newspapers May 22, 2017
Martin HawverRemember last November, when 56.6 percent of Kansans who had a little spare time on Nov. 8 voted for President Donald Trump, then down lower on the ballot voted for legislators who vowed to be moderate, work across-the-aisle, and fix Kansas?
The newspapers were filled for weeks with stories about the apparent change in the previously staunchly conservative Legislature that would be led by staunchly conservative Gov. Sam Brownback during his final two years in office.
Well, we’re about to see in the next week, or two, or three, or whatever…just how that worked out.
So far, the relatively more moderate Republicans who were elected in dozens of districts statewide have had one pretty-close shot at liberalizing the state. That was when those fresh-faced GOP lawmakers voted with Democrats in the House to expand health-care services to more than 150,000 Kansans by taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) provisions.
Well, it worked, and the Senate passed that Medicaid expansion, too. And then Brownback vetoed the bill and the newly moderated lawmakers couldn’t come up with the votes to override the veto. Close—three votes short in the House—but the plan for the state to spend $70 million more on care for the poor to generate more than $1 billion in new federal assistance failed.
And, there was that three-bracket Kansas income tax plan, virtually erasing the governor’s 2012 tax cut program (which was, of course, stripped by lawmakers back then of the governor’s pay-backs that would have stabilized state revenues), which was passed to the governor, vetoed, and again, not overridden.
And, yes, there are more tax plans, all of which would eliminate the Kansas income tax exemption for non-wage income from those LLCs and sole proprietorships. The key to that repeal for those 330,000 Kansans who are on a long state income tax holiday is still stuck.
Everyone, probably except Brownback and maybe 40 or so legislators, wants that LLC provision eliminated.
That newly centrist legislature elected last November?  They want that LLC provision erased—and it was often the top headline on their campaign flyers. But it’s starting to look like they don’t have the numbers to do that over the governor’s veto and at the same time raise enough money to pay for more state aid to schools.
And if that isn’t enough, well, there has been some splintering among those new moderate Republicans. They apparently don’t have the votes to do what they told their voters they would do.
So where does it go from here?
Nothing looks very certain, and time is running out. That 100-day session that was approved as a sign they are serious about reshaping Kansas? Clearly not enough.
Now, as we recall, none of those campaign brochures promised to get everything done in one year…so there’s still another session ahead which comes with elections of statewide officers and the Kansas House of Representatives. And, the big issue there: Whether the current necessity of having enough votes not just to pass, but also enough votes to override a veto, will be necessary.
The governor, recall, is worth six Senate votes and 21 House votes, the difference between passing a bill and overriding a veto.
So, do we get a budget, do we get a tax increase, do we finance K-12 education to the adequacy requirements of the Kansas Supreme Court in the next few weeks? Probably, except, of course, for the court review of the new school finance formula, which could go either way.
That brings the whole issue of Kansas government, as it always has, to voters, and whether they are willing to hold their breath for that “new Kansas” to arrive Nov. 6, 2018.
We’ll see, won’t we?

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