The legislative session ended in the early hours Sunday morning with agreement finally reached on a budget and tax adjustments. It certainly ended as one of the most unusual sessions for many of the veteran legislative members.
The House had the first try on the budget. Of course, it’s a negotiated budget, so everyone is happy with parts of it and unhappy with other parts.
Several of the more objectionable items for many people were fixed so it passed without any extra votes. K-12 education was left at about the same funding level as last year, and higher education was cut by 1.5 percent.
Most departments and agencies saw additional cuts in their budgets, but many of those were relatively minor compared to the past few years.
An attempt was made to permanently carve out the developmentally disabled population from KanCare, but at some point it became apparent this would not occur.
Another major concern was funding for corrections. A little funding was added to the corrections, but not as much as was requested. Corrections funding is always an issue because of the safety for the general public.
The tax bill was an entirely different question. With the large tax cuts that occurred last year, it was apparent that some adjustments and corrections needed to be made. The word adjustments could be interpreted to mean tax increases, but the net effects of last year’s tax cuts and this year’s adjustments is lower overall taxes than in the past.
The sales tax rate will drop from 6.3 percent to 6.15 percent rather than dropping to 5.7 percent, and income taxes will be slowly ratcheted down as state revenues are expected to grow.
A very good thing is that charitable donations will remain fully deductible and that food sales tax rebates will still be available for low-income individuals and families.
This was a compromise plan that does not lower sales taxes as far as expected, but still allows the Kansas Department of Transportation the 0.4 cent for road construction and maintenance.
When the dust finally settles, most legislative members are hopeful that good overall policies have been put in place. We have voted on so many issues, and when we see the culmination of those votes in the budget, sometimes some second-guessing takes place.
Trying to put good policy in place is always a challenge and many times we have to make adjustments a year or two later.
Of course, everyone is pleased the session is finished after 99 days. Legislative members put their normal life on hold for the time that is spent here in Topeka.
At least we are allowed to be absent for important events for friends and family. Even then it takes a week or so to catch up on sleep and return to some semblance of normalcy when it’s over.
Until the next session begins, House and Senate members constantly have legislative matters on their minds through the summer months.
With the variety of issues we saw this session, I hope anyone who has questions or concerns will feel free to contact me for assistance in resolving problems or questions. Quite a number of agencies are adjusting their mission, so if anyone needs help, I have phone numbers and contacts that can be used.
Thank-you all for your support during this challenging legislative session. It continues to be an honor and a pleasure to serve as you elected representative.
Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, represents the 74th District, which includes Hillsboro and roughly the southern half of Marion County, the southeast corner of McPherson County and all but the southeast corner of Harvey County.