May 6, 2022
The legislature is on another break until May 23. The delayed schedule is a response to the Congressional map and now the state senate map being challenged in court.
Meat Labeling Conference Committee Report (CCR) 261 will stop the use of the word “meat” when a product at the grocery store does not contain meat. The bill does not address the use of the word “meat” in restaurants or the use of the word “milk”, but it is a step in consumer protection and forcing accurate labeling of non-meat products. The CCR passed unanimously.
Taxes collected were $175 million above estimates for April. Last year the Governor vetoed income tax cuts, calling them reckless. The legislature overrode the veto and the tax cuts were implemented. Taxes collected are at an all-time high. A majority of legislators voted to pay down some debt (KPERS unfunded liability), which I supported. However, a majority of legislators also voted to increase spending and put $750 million in reserves – so that government can spend it at a later date. I do not support allowing government to grow, especially at that pace.
As Chairman of the Senate Tax Committee, I am grateful for the hard work by the Senate and the House to get some good tax legislation passed this year! Here are some of the highlights: property tax freeze for low income seniors and disabled veterans, tax credits for teachers who purchased school supplies with their own money, removing state sales tax on delivery and postage costs, doubling personal income tax exemption for 100% disabled veterans from $2250 to $4500, and many other provisions. And of course, after many years of trying, we finally passed legislation that will bring the state sales tax on groceries to zero. These are big wins for Kansans and I am grateful for the teamwork between the House and Senate to the tax policies passed with veto proof majority.
In the next day of session, May 23, watch for CCR 2597 which would amend income tax, sales tax, and would enact the COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Act, providing partial property tax relief for businesses who were restricted at their storefront during the Governor’s COVID-19 shut down. The legislation would gradually remove state income tax on Social Security, increase the standard deduction based on inflation, remove state sales tax on electric and other utilities for businesses (homeowners are already exempt), and other tax provisions to help return record tax collections to Kansas taxpayers.
There was good teamwork and leadership this year that has brought good tax policy to fruition, but there is still work to be done on May 23.
K-12 funding for each Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, 2023, 2024 is over $6 billion in CCR 2567. There was some policy items in the CCR, most notably, adoption of Open Enrollment, allowing students to move between schools provided the receiving school has the capacity to accept the student transferring. There are several questions with the legislation. It was in a budget bill and the Governor can line item veto budgets. Does it apply to this bill? The CCR passed the Senate 24 to 14. I did not support the major spending increase. I did support the school transfer version of the bill and had voted Yes when it was a standalone bill.
More legislation that passed can be found at www.KSLegislature.org.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.