Legislative Update By State Senator Caryn Tyson
May 17, 2019
2019 Session End is May 29th, known as sine-die. Every session is unique and seems to take on a personality of its own. This year was no different. The unique people involved and the different issues being worked, combine to create the ‘personality’ of the session. It can be a difficult environment and a messy process. However, during debate on a judicial appointment, we were reminded of how blessed we are to have our government process and a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Judicial Appointment: A few years ago the legislature changed the appointment process for Appellate Court Judges by adding Senate approval. Recently, the Governor submitted a nomination for Senate approval. That nominee was voted down on a vote of 0 Yes to 38 No. Some people cried foul when the appointment process was changed. However, if it would not have changed, the nominee who did not receive one Yes vote would have become an Appellate Court Judge. This scenario is an example of why the process for appointing Kansas Supreme Court Justices needs to be changed. Senate approval would be one way of giving the people a voice in naming justices.
Taxes and Expenditures: For years, there has been misinformation about the 2012 tax cuts, referred to as the “failed tax experiment”. For the record, after the 2012 tax cuts there were more cuts. In 2013 sales tax was cut from 6.3% to 6.15% and the bottom bracket of the state income tax was cut from 3.5% to 3.0% and the top bracket was cut from 6.25% to 4.9%. In 2014 the bottom bracket was cut from 3% to 2.7% and the top bracket was cut from 4.9% to 4.8%. In 2015 the top bracket was cut to 4.6%. In 2016 the bottom bracket was cut to 2.4% and the top bracket was cut to 4.6%. Tax cuts are usually good for stimulating the economy and that grows businesses and provides jobs. A good example is the unintended revenue increase the State is receiving from the Federal tax cuts. These cuts should be good for Kansas taxpayers but for this to happen the government has to be well disciplined on regulating spending. Unlike the Federal government, our State government is not supposed to go into debt. That’s in our State Constitution. But unfortunately, we are finding ways to circumvent our State’s fundamental principles.
So, when you hear about failed 2012 tax cuts, remember we also cut income taxes in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and then President Trump cut Federal taxes in 2017. The tax cuts now are not the problem, runaway spending is the problem. Kansas tax laws were in tandem with federal tax laws before the 2017 Federal tax cuts. In an attempt to re-align Federal and State tax law, the legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 22 and then House Bill (HB) 2033. Both were vetoed by the Governor. The argument was used that it would, “decimate the state’s ability to pay our bills and invest in our people.” That is absurd. The out-of-control spending is going to “decimate the state’s ability to pay bills”. How about this, the Governor submitted her increased budget to the legislature and the legislature decided She was not spending enough so they appropriated millions more money in the budget then what was requested. I was one of the few who didn’t vote for the Budget.
In summary, according to Kansas Legislative Research, the State will be in-the-red in two years with current law. And after all the increases this budget puts the State on a path to be approximately $1.4 billion in-the-red in four years. That doesn’t take into account any increased spending in those four years. So then what? Once again, the Governor will probably pull money from KDOT and delay payments to KPERS or even raise taxes.
We need to change our laws to address the budget process and create a fair and level tax code for Kansans. I am hopeful that with due-diligence, we can still achieve this end.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.