Legislature searching budget revenue

Kansas House of Representatives

Despite the quick start to the 2017 legislative session, things seem to be settling in and slowing down. Not that unusual as it takes time to fit many puzzle pieces together. In other words, it becomes something of a waiting game to see what comes first.

A couple of items of interest have recently occurred. Yesterday, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee rejected what is known as SB 53, a bill that would extend the exemption for college and universities regarding concealed carry of firearms on campus.

In other words, the exemption from the law for campus carry expires July 1 unless the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, or some other method such as a floor amendment or the House committee, is successful in getting the bill passed. Of course, the session is still relatively early so anything can happen.

We seem to be floundering a little with the budget and tax issues. It’s always easy to talk about, and campaign on, tax increases or decreases. But when the political reality settles in, those are always difficult issues.

The LLC exemption issue is a great example of that. Many new legislators campaigned on putting taxes back on the LLCs but when it comes right down to it, it is difficult to do.

Add to that the complexity of the tax structure and the fact that deleting the third tier on the income tax bracket and reducing the rate on the remaining two brackets is where the majority of the 2012 tax cuts occurred, the LLC fix is only a start.

In total, the 2012 tax cuts were nearly $900 million, so that’s about what it would take to get revenues close to where they had been. Would anyone vote for $900 million in tax increases in any one year? Not likely. So you see the gravity of the problem.

I recently was appointed to the Legislative Post Audit Committee. That is a joint committee, meaning both House and Senate members are on it. Post Audit does as it says: We receive requests for various state programs that legislators think may need a closer look.

In my short time on the committee, I have learned there will be a report out soon regarding the proposal to include schools in the state insurance pool, and later a three part report on the Depart­ment for Children and Families.

In the Ag budget committee, we have begun hearing the 2018-19 budget proposals. The first one was the Department of Agriculture. Things are actually going pretty well in the Depart­ment of Ag, but some of their lab equipment is quite old and needs replacement.

The governor recommended against replacement, but the budget committee put some of the department requests back in. One item requested for replacement is a somatic cell counter to test milk; that program still runs on a floppy disk. The other machine tests plant material. Obviously, these machines are no longer serviced by the manufacturer.

A Natural Resources Committee is working almost exclusively on water-related issues. In talking briefly to Chairman Sloan (Lawrence), the desire to address quantity and quality issues is certainly there, but the money to actually address those issues effectively is lacking at this point.

We are still looking at education issues and how to address the current budget shortage. The problem is the alternatives are all bad, so it comes down to trying to choose the path that is the least bad. Not so much fun, but I’m confident some good will emerge from this.

We may see some innovative ideas regarding taxation that could serve the state well. My hope is we will begin looking further down the road as we plan for the future.

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

by Rep. Don Schroeder