Budget the big item in wrap-up time

The wrap-up session has begun and we now have the slow, incremental process of fashioning a budget and of completing work on a number of ?substantive? bills through conference committees trying to iron out differences of opinion between the House and Senate. But the biggest task is the work of the conference committee crafting a budget for the next fiscal year that both senators and House members will support.

While the House/Senate conference committee is to meet and reconcile differing views on their respective budgets, the House Appropriations Commit?tee chairman has called separate House committee meetings to craft a different House budget proposal.

In Friday?s House-only meeting, three members of the House Appropriations Committee proposed an amendment to cut about $200 million more from schools, believed to be for the purpose of increasing the ending balance, not to shift spending to another area. It is designed to be discussed Monday, May 2.

This proposed amendment appears to be a variation of two amendments proposed on the House floor when debating the budget in March, and both of those amendments were defeated, the House consensus at that time being that deeper cuts were too extreme in the midst of a recession. By the time you read this column, I should know how this event plays out in that committee.

Earlier this session, the House passed a bill limiting the activity of sexually oriented businesses. I understand the Senate did not have time to hold hearings on that bill and therefore has not voted on that bill. This last week, in hopes we could get the Senate to simply concur in our action, we again passed that bill, as SB 25. I again voted for it.

On the subject of taxation, the Council on State Taxation conducted a study, through the firm Ernst & Young LLP, that considers the bill passed earlier this year by the House; that?s the bill that would substantially reduce corporate income tax and completely eliminate individual income taxes in Kansas. The Senate has not acted on that bill.

The Council states that eliminating the tax isn?t likely to significantly spur economic growth in Kansas, and it warns legislators about examining only one of piece of the tax puzzle. That part of the report is in line with the governor?s advocacy and my own views expressed over the past three years.

The report states: ?Legisla?tors need to examine the entire system of state and local business taxes, not just a single tax, in evaluating their state?s tax competitiveness. In fact, the results suggest that legislators have not paid enough attention to the role of sales in understanding tax burdens imposed on business investments and on-going operations.?

I remain convinced that analysis of all our tax policies is necessary if we are to impact jobs, the tax burden on Kansans, and truly advance our state. That is what Gov. Brownback asked for in his State of the State message.

Please review my column of March 9 and 10 about the ?three-legged stool? for background on the issues invloved.

Please contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call 620-382-2133. You may also call my Topeka number (through about May 11): 785-296-7636.

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