Legislator’s report

Barker views session as successful

State Representative, 70th District

The 2013 legislative session concluded just days ago. It was unprecedented on several fronts.

Nearly half of the House members, myself included, were newly elected. That helped sweep away many personal conflicts that mired previous legislatures. We came to Topeka with a new attitude and your mandate that the status quo was not acceptable.

Second, the Legislature adopted a long-term approach to budget and tax policy. It used to be that a mere few months into a budget year state agencies had to start scrambling to develop a budget for the next year and guessing what resources might or might not be available.

We adopted a two-year budget cycle to allow for better planning and management and we actively sought the input of agency personnel regarding inefficiencies. The result is that we trimmed spending by nearly $200 million while reallocating savings to vital services like K-12 education.

Third, with such a large class of new legislators, we were not tied to the mistakes of the past. Recent legislatures had implemented an unsustainable approach to tax policy, one that provided little comfort to taxpayers attempting to make long-term financial decisions.

Through tough negotiations and a strong desire to achieve a policy that benefits all Kansas taxpayers we crafted a five-year comprehensive tax reform package that reduces the overall state tax burden by $3.7 billion.

Before 2013, state income tax rates ranged from 6.45 percent for higher incomes to 3.5 percent for lower incomes. Phased-in reductions will shrink rates to 3.9 percent and 2.3 percent. For tax year 2013, the first year of the plan, rates will fall to 4.9 percent and 3 percent. The state sales tax will drop from 6.3 percent to 6.15 percent Monday.

We received some welcome news as we left Topeka. New business filings in our state are on the rise. The message that Kansas is welcoming and now “open for business” is being heard loud and clear. That means more jobs and financial opportunities for our Kansas families, recent graduates, and local businesses.

Though the current session may have ended, please let me know if I can be of any assistance or if you have questions or comments. I can be reached by email at johnbarker2012@yahoo.com, by letter at Rep. John E. Barker, 103 Wassinger Ave., Abilene KS 67410, or by phone at (785) 479-7519.

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