Longest session is reaching conclusion

The legislative session finally appears to be ending. Legislators will be happy to return to normal life and jobs as wheat harvest is beginning in the southern parts of the state and my farm friends are anxious to get to it.

Last weekend House members were off on Sunday but the Senate worked Sunday afternoon. The Senate passed a tax proposal that included sales and other taxes and was quickly shot down by the House without even taking a vote.

The major issues the House had would have required adding back some of the charitable deductions and taking out a significant increase in sales taxes. There also were policy pieces in the proposal to which several objected.

The governor wants to continue increasing sales and consumption taxes in an effort to drive down income taxes. The issue is that sales taxes put a proportionately larger burden on people making less money than on someone with higher income, and this is a major shift in tax policy away from the more balanced traditional sources.

Wednesday evening stretched into Thursday morning as the tax proposal was brought to the House floor. The bill included some policy issues that have not had legislative hearings as well as large sales and other tax increases. That particular bill, 2109, narrowly passed the Senate but failed by a large margin in the House the first time through, but was revived for a second try. After passing what is known as a trailer bill, 2109 passed with the minimum 63 votes. A trailer bill is a cleanup for the primary bill, which in this case was the tax proposal, 2109.

There have been meetings with everyone from the governor on down. Not to say that everyone is unanimous in our opinions, but a number of legislative members hope that at least part of the 2012 tax cuts are rolled back, starting the process of incrementally reducing taxes rather than going over a cliff.

However, no rollback occurred and the primary increase to taxes was added on sales. A few other items, taxpayer amnesty, guaranteed payments by LLCs, and a 50-cent tax on cigarettes among others, were also included in the bill and the trailer bill.

There was also a provision included to require a vote on property-tax increases beginning in 2018. While the idea is worth exploring, the manner in which it was inserted into the bill was poor. It was inserted as a floor amendment in the Senate and had no hearings of any kind during this legislative session. That type of side-stepping the legislative rules should not occur, but majority vote determines the fate.

Finally, a reconciliation bill is something necessary to allow the legislative staff to correct errors, such as punctuation and misspellings, in any legislation that has been passed. The reconciliation bill passed Wednesday leaving the tax package to fund the budget the only remaining legislative piece.

As I write this, all the tax and budget pieces will be in place once the Senate finishes work later today. If anything goes wrong, we could potentially be back at square one. Where we go from there is undetermined if the last piece fails to fall into place.

Thank-you for your communication, and patience, with me and the Legislature in general. It can be tiring and we all would like to be back home to our normal lives, but it is still an honor to serve the great people of central Kansas.

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

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