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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Legislature working overtime on budget

Rep., 70th District

Days 86 through 90 of the session flew by, with little good accomplished. We’re now on overload. Constitutionally, we meet for 90 days, but a resolution was passed earlier to give us through May 31. I hope we don’t take that long. The story is we could be back home May 16. Don’t count on it.

Well, the House and Senate have each now passed their respective budgets. The joint conference committee has been meeting, trying to hammer out the differences. They’re not done. That’s the one thing we must pass before we adjourn. However, the real monkeys on our backs remain the governor’s wish for a tax plan to be passed this year and the matter of getting redistricting maps passed.

We still have no congressional, state school board, House or Senate redistricting maps to send to the governor. The House has now entered foreign territory this last week by drawing a Senate map, after the House defeated the Senate’s version. Traditionally (but not legally required), the House map is left to the House to draw, and the Senate draws its own map. Time will tell how this plays out. Last week I mentioned how to access more information about this issue.

The conference committee’s tax bill that I spoke of last week? It failed to get sufficient votes in the Senate, but a different tax bill came into play this week; it’s one passed earlier by the Senate solely to give the Senate and House a chance to talk through their differences. The Senate had put a number of “wish list” items in the tax bill before passing it, and likely expected some of the items would not become law. That bill was horribly out of balance and deeply under water; it would create a massive deficit in 2014, and by 2017 or 2018 is likely to be about $2 to $3 billion short of funding things the state now funds.

Well, the governor asked the House to pass that tax bill, stating he would not sign it into law unless the Senate did not pass another tax plan for him to sign. Gov. Sam Brownback also stated he would sign this awful bill if he received no other income tax reduction bill to sign. Based on that scenario, the House passed the awful tax bill — the one that’s worse than the bill I outlined last week in my column.

I voted “no,” believing it is never a good time to vote for bad policy, and this is in my judgment very bad policy. I think playing chicken with Kansas citizens, the budget, and the Kansas tax system is a really bad game to play. Sound like Congress to you?

We also took up another tax bill on the House floor that proposed to change how machinery, equipment, and fixtures are classified for tax purposes. There is a real issue that needs to be dealt with, but the bill as it came out of committee did not do what it purported to do. I offered an amendment that passed; my amendment would place everything on hold until we can work out a common sense approach next session.

The bill as presented by the House Tax Committee would have caused another tax shift from large-plant business property to other tax classifications. In some counties, our homes, downtown businesses and farms would have picked up a greater part of the property tax burden if the bill had passed as it came out of committee.

We need to address this matter, but not during the veto session when we’re likely to cast a knee-jerk vote. We need more deliberate and thorough thought before adopting a long-term policy.

You may email me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or call me at (620) 382-2133. We now have no office assistants in Topeka, so you’ll go pot luck calling me in Topeka. My Marion office staff should be able to find me.

Last modified May 16, 2012

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