Bills now rolling in for consideration

On Week 2 of the 2017 Kansas Legislative session, several issues began rolling through. First was the House and Senate passing the change in voter laws that aligned state law with federal law. This is needed by the possible appointment of Congressman Mike Pompeo (Wichita) as the CIA director for President Trump. Work has also begun in earnest on taxation, budget and education funding issues.

Several legislators have introduced bills to delay the implementation of concealed carry on campus. The exemption for campus carry ends July 1 and does not apply to private colleges. Most likely the bills will be sent to the Federal & State Affairs Com­mittee. The main point is that if the Legis­lature does not act, the exemption for campus concealed carry will end.

Thursday, the Taxation Committee had a hearing on a bill to eliminate the pass through (also known as the LLC) tax exemption. I have not read the bill yet as I am not on that committee, but believe it is retroactive as written.

There are other issues, such as net operating loss carry forward and mortgage interest deductions that also need resolving. These issues are important to farmers and home owners and may be put into it if the committee works the bill. With the ag commodity prices so low, the net operating loss carry forward is important to ag producers.

It is notable that ag producers and business owners are not particularly opposed to the bill, which is HB 2023. The agriculture community is much more interested in making sure the use-value appraisal system remains as it is. Use value uses a rolling average income on ag land to value the land for property taxes.

Being on Appropriations, we are learning about the governor’s budget proposal. Our hands are really tied regarding how to fill the 2017 budget gap of about $350 million. At this point, it is very difficult to cut more out of budgets without simply shutting down programs completely. Agencies and departments have seen 10 percent-plus reductions in their budget in the past few years. It has been difficult to follow, but K-12 schools have seen flat funding for several years, and if inflation is factored in, the effective level of funding has decreased.

There are three basic ways to handle this issue: cut spending, increase revenues, or do a combination of both. Rumor has it the Senate is looking at a reduction in all budgets while the House is looking at using the unclaimed property fund to make up the difference. The unclaimed property fund is misnamed and is a fund that contains primarily ending balances that have been invested.

The unclaimed property fund itself is $317 million and combined with the earnings is $364 million. The $47 million earnings could be used without paying back, but the $317 million base amount requires repayment. It certainly is not good policy to make a longer-term loan to pay annual expenses, but that may be the best of the terrible choices we have to make.

A news article on KanCare this week outlined some of the issues with the system. Slow payments, waiting lists and denied services are issues of which the Legislature is well aware. The Health and Human Services committee chair, Rep. Hawkins (Wichita), will certainly be looking into the issue in detail.

Writing a new school funding formula is something we need to do this year. Chairman of the K-12 Bud­get Committee, Rep. Camp­bell (Olathe), has been given the task of getting a formula done. He is very collaborative and is also a get-it-done type of a person who has my full confidence he will accomplish that task.

If anyone has thoughts or comments on the funding formula, be sure to send him your thoughts. Of course, contact information is available for all Legislative members on the Kansas Legislature website.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

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