Taxes and budget top state agenda in Topeka

The legislative session keeps grinding on. Many relatively minor issues are being worked on but the main issues, taxes and budget, are making slow progress.

The budget process actually shows more promise than the tax issues. The budget is so complex that hearings and work has to continue to make the 80, or even the 90-day, deadline.

Budget sub-committees are nearly finished with hearings. The sub-committees are assigned various departments and agencies to take a close look at proposals for the coming year.

Many of the budgets presented are being trimmed more than was originally proposed. I have not heard from some of the budget committees, so I do not know what is happening, particularly in education and social services.

The reason budgets are being trimmed is because the projected revenue and expenditures do not balance. There does not seem to be consensus to raise taxes or continue sales taxes at the current level, so budget trimming is going on to make a balanced budget as is required by the state constitution.

Early on, the governor was hoping to convince the Legis?lature to allow the higher sales-tax rates to continue, even though the promise was to sunset 0.6 cents of the sales tax in 2013. In addition, the governor wanted to eliminate the mortgage tax deduction on state returns.

All this was in an effort to continue to push down state income taxes for businesses and individuals.

The theory is that lowering income taxes stimulates job growth the quickest. It is difficult to find information that actually confirms that theory, although it is easy to find information that says the total tax burden has an effect on stimulating job growth.

Tax policy can have so many consequences that thorough study is needed on any tax bill. Even then, consequences can occur that no one thought about.

As we approach turn-around, committees will be wrapping up any hearings they intend to take up by Monday or Tuesday next week. After that, we expect to spend three or four days on the House floor to finish up policy issues before the turn-around. After that, we have four days off while legislative staff prepare and transfers bills to the Senate for consideration.

A large agriculture bill passed out of the committee for consideration by the full House. That bill included the allowance for small amounts of water use for other purposes, and refining what class and size of water retention dams need regular inspection.

Also included is adjusting a couple of aspects of the flex accounts for farmers that irrigate and are running up against the pumping limit and a proposal to make it easier for counties, cities and private individuals to do routine tree and brush cleaning in rivers and streams.

Quite a lot for one bill but all related to water in some way.

When the dust clears after this week, I need to check and see what legislative measures have passed and which are still in committee. Understand that any bill not acted on this year is still in play for next year as we have a two-year cycle for legislation that coincides with the House election cycle.

Please contact me with your concerns on legislative matters. The pace will pick up as we begin taking a look at what the Senate has passed to the House for consideration.
















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