The House and Senate formally adjourned the 2018 legislative session on Friday, May 4 after passing a final budget and nixing a proposed tax cut.
Last Thursday, the House and then the Senate passed by substantial margins the final budget bill which sets forth spending for the rest of the current fiscal year and next year. The budget bill calls for roughly $6.7 billion in state general fund spending this year and $7 million for Fiscal Year 2019. The budget restores roughly $15 million in cuts to higher education and will provide raises to an estimated 13,000 state workers. It also reduces the amount to be taken from the transportation fund to pay for schools, which should free those funds up to be used to complete T-Works highways projects. The budget also makes additional investments in mental health, early childhood education and pensions. Depending on which items Governor Colyer elects to veto, the budget should leave the state fund with an ending balance this year of $447 million and $375 million projected for next year.
No Tax Cut Bill
Late last week, the Senate passed its “Mega” income tax bill which was intended to use changes in the federal income tax law to pass a state tax cut on to Kansans. The bill would have allowed Kansans to itemize their state deductions even if they used the federal standard deduction. It would have also hastened the restoration of the full state deduction for mortgage interest, property tax and medical expenses. In its penultimate action of the 2018 session, the House debated the tax cut bill intensively but the final vote was a 59-59 tie. Since it needed 63 votes to pass, the bill died. House members expressed concern about the bill’s uncertain cost, the pending school finance litigation and whether the tax cuts would really benefit average hard-working Kansans.
On Tuesday, the bill legalizing self-service beer dispensers passed the House. It has now been sent to the Governor for his signature which is expected any day. This simple change to the state’s liquor laws was key to the business model of Top Tank winner, Brew Bank. A team including Brew Bank’s founders and investors, as well as, the Topeka Chamber and Downtown Topeka, Inc., has been working since February to hastily introduce the bill and move it to passage.
School Finance Fix
Governor Colyer has signed into law the bill sent to him last week by the legislature to “fix” the K-12 finance package. The bill authorizes the state department of education to spend $80 million that had been inadvertently left out of the legislature’s earlier K-12 school finance plan. The bill shores-up the $525 million increase in aid to public schools already passed by lawmakers. Legislators and the Governor now wait for the Kansas Supreme Court to determine whether the new school plan is constitutional. If it is not, the legislature will be called back into special session this summer.
From July through April, the State of Kansas took in just over $5.7 billion in tax revenue. That was $66 million more than estimators expected and almost $1 billion more than the same period last year. Nearly $2.8 billion came from individual income taxes. Corporate income taxes for the period were $290 million and sales taxes were close to $2 billion.
Colyer Bans “Checking the box”
Last week, Governor Colyer signed an executive order that will ban state agencies from asking whether a job applicant has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. There are exceptions. Colyer noted that this type of question has the effect of excluding from consideration otherwise qualified workers who have served their time for criminal offenses. He pointed-out that employment is a key to helping convicted individuals stay out of prison. The Senate President then indicated she may pursue legislation next year which would prohibit all employers in Kansas from “checking the box” on a job applicant’s past convictions.