Getting down to work

We’re about to see just what the Legislature is going to do for, or to, us in the next couple weeks.
Yes…lawmakers have been in session eight weeks, but it’s this week that we may see something
significant in the way of legislation.

Nope, no budget yet, but it appears that this could be the week that committees in both chambers
get very close to massaging Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and
next fiscal year.

So far, on the basics of keeping the government running, legislators are agreeing on much of
what she has proposed for the operation of the state. Nope, not major issues, but the groundwork
that the governor proposed appears to be pretty-well received.

The highway plan? Surprisingly, once Kelly agreed to complete all the projects that former Gov.
Sam Brownback couldn’t because he kept siphoning money out of the Kansas Department of
Transportation, it looks likely to pass out of committees to the House and maybe Senate floors
for debate. Key there is that everyone wants every foot of road promised to them back in 2010,
even if it is four or five years late.

Nothing like highways to get legislators re-elected, is there?

So, look for a little squabbling, but for the governor’s highway plan to move forward.

School finance? Practically, it looks like not a bunch of new money for the public K-12 schools,
but enough to keep the Legislature on the right side of the Kansas Supreme Court decision last
year which held the state’s financing of public schools was unconstitutional.

Taxes…oh yes, taxes…

Actually, the big issue to most of us is not getting a lot clearer yet.

The Senate has tossed to the House a couple bills dealing with the qualifications of appraisers,
and one major property tax bill that doesn’t cost the state any money but lets lawmakers brag
about “transparency” with local units of government forced to hold public hearings if they
propose to spend more property tax revenue than they did last year.

Now, transparency is probably a good thing, but for most of us it doesn’t really matter until we
open the tax bill envelope and see if we’re paying more or less than last year. Nothing so far
from the Legislature that would cut property taxes for anyone.

Income tax is the big deal for the election-year legislature and that side of the issue remains
uncertain in the House. The state has more money than expected, and, well, there are few better
places for legislators to vote to put that than in the pockets of voters.

At this point, the scraps are over income taxes; do lawmakers drop tax liabilities of corporations
that help finance their campaigns, or individual voters, and which ones of them? For voters, the
issue gets simple: Cut my taxes.

It’s the political decision that is complicated in the Statehouse.

Help the poor, maybe by cutting rates, or making some portion of the sales tax they pay for
groceries a refundable credit against their income taxes? Help the middle-class by boosting the
standard deduction, allowing them to pay taxes on smaller amounts of income? De-couple from
the federal standard deductions which allows the better-off to not waste their state deductions?

And, don’t forget, within all those classes are Social Security recipients, and there are bills that
would boost the level of un-taxed Social Security payments based on total income.

In the next week, maybe two, we’ll know which way legislators are going, and maybe which
ones to re-elect and which ones to keep at home after the elections.