With no consideration in committee and after only eighty minutes of discussion the Senate passed a bill to raise taxes on virtually every Kansan.

        The chair of the Senate Tax Committee could not answer my questions because she had just received the bill and had not even introduced it in her own committee before bringing it for a vote of the Senate last Friday. In her defense, she said that she did not like the bill that she recommended be passed. The pressure from leadership was strong. The President of the Senate forced the bill immediately to the floor and encouraged the Governor to not veto it. Yet, the President of the Senate voted against it herself. The whole action gives duplicity a bad name.
        The bill was crammed through without committee hearing because leadership declared an emergency and suspended the rules. The nature of the emergency is unknown.
        The bill, Sub HB 2178, had already passed the House. Discussion in the House had been brief as well. During debate in the Senate I pointed out that the tax increase is being sought despite the fact that there is no budget plan, no strategy, no objective except to take more money from Kansans.
We have not addressed the budget and possible reductions to government spending. This is simply seeing how much we can get and then spending it. Kansans are not well served by government members that claim to disapprove of the bills they present and recommend, by members that vote against bills they introduce and for which they advocate. The President of the Senate forced this bill onto the floor and to a vote.

         The Chair of the Tax Committee did the President's bidding. They both voted against the bill. They want to avoid having to face the necessity of making cuts to government spending, cuts that will upset some constituents dependant on continuing and increasing the flow of dollars from your wallet into theirs. And yet, they want to appear to be your heroes, claiming to vote against that which they promote and advance.
        Every newly elected senator except one voted for this bill increasing our taxes. That is thirteen out of fourteen new senators. Many new representatives voted for it as well. All Democrat Senators except one voted for it. And he complained that it did not raise taxes enough.
        The bill is now on the Governor's desk.   He has not said that he will veto it - although I hope that he will.
        How much will this hurt you? The tax increase on your income is retroactive so it covers everything you have earned or will earn this year and every subsequent year (NB, your withholding will be short at tax time because of the retroactive feature). If you have a business the tax is going up significantly. 60,000 dollars earnings will have taxes increased by $3,900; 100,000 dollars earnings will get an increase of $8,925. Increases on small business earning will be much higher as they had been tax exempt. This means fewer dollars in the economy, fewer dollars being spent in the community. It will hurt a lot.


* In 2012, Kansas took more than $1,000 in income tax per person from its taxpayers, a rate higher than its neighboring states. By 2014, after tax policy, that dropped to approximately $870 in income tax per person and is the lowest in the area. This reduction in tax per person has kept more money in the Kansas communities where it has been spent, saved, and invested by Kansans.
* US unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent in January 2017, up slightly from 4.7 percent in December 2016. Kansas unemployment rate was 4.2 per cent in December - January rate to be released in March. Kansas has outperformed the national average for years. That might be changing as the new higher income taxes take money out of the Kansas economy.

The Senate voted on two tax proposals, and ultimately sent one to Governor Brownback's desk.

         The first tax bill the Senate debated was SB 188, a bill presented by Senate Democrats. It failed on a roll call vote of 10-30. I voted against this bill.

On Friday, the Senate briefly debated Sub HB 2178, a tax bill that passed the House Thursday. The bill removes the small business tax exemption and significantly raises rates on all income taxes. The Senate passed this bill on a close vote of 22-18. I voted against this bill.

The next stop for Sub HB 2178 is Governor Brownback's desk. He has said he will not sign this bill, although that doesn't necessarily mean it won't become law. The Governor is now presented with three options: a) he can sign the bill into law; b) he can let the bill become law - without signing it - by letting it sit on his desk for 10 days after receiving it; c) he can veto the bill within 10 days of receiving it. The Senate President has encouraged the Governor to allow it to become law - despite the fact that she voted against it.

If the Governor vetoes Sub HB 2178, it will go back to its house of origin where a motion to override would require a two-thirds majority in both houses. If either Chamber falls short of the necessary votes to override we will begin the tax process over again. I hope that we will get the budget passed before readdressing taxes so we will know how much spending can be reduced and where before we begin rifling through Kansans' pockets.

VAPOR TAX (SB 54), (SB130): The Senate Committee on Taxation held hearings on SB 130 and SB 54, measures that clarifies definitions of consumable material in vapor products and enforcement of tax collections. Passed during last year's session in the state's budget was a 20¢ per milliliter tax on e-liquid. This tax was scheduled to take effect this July. During testimony multiple individuals voiced opinions, asking the committee to rethink this tax upstanding that it has the potential to damage not only citizens trying to live a healthier lifestyle but those also that may lose their jobs and businesses to accommodate the tax increase.

The committee also heard from many individuals in support of the definition changes within SB 130 arguing that the interpretation of the phrase "consumable materials" can be confusing. Claiming that it should apply solely to the volume of nicotine and not the water or any other chemicals included in vaping fluid. No action has been taken on this bill.

INCREASING COMPENSATION FOR WONGFUL CONVICTED (SB125): The bill requires the state to provide compensation to persons wrongfully convicted of a crime. Kansas does not currently have a compensation statute and the only redress for a wrongfully convicted person after proving their innocence is to file a lawsuit. Thirty-two states and the federal government have compensation laws. SB 125 bill aims to make the appeal process less strenuous and ensure proper compensation for those who were wrongfully convicted. The bill was heard but action has not been taken.

INTERLOCK SYSTEM FOR FIRST TIME DUI OFFENDERS (SB123): The bill removes the requirement of an ignition interlock system for first-time DUI offenders. Those with DUI convictions are forced to have the ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. This device forces drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before they can start their vehicle.
Currently, many are choosing not to drive while serving out their suspension, but even after an offender's suspension period has come to an end, individuals are finding out they are still required to rent a device before they're able to get the reinstatement of their license. SB 123 intends to address those who have been convicted of a first-time DUI and allows courts to no longer require that the ignition interlock be a penalty. Offenders will no longer have to prove that they had the device before reinstatement of the guilty party's driver's license. The bill was heard but action has not been taken.

FOOD SALES TAX (SCR 1604): Senate Concurrent Resolution to amend the Kansas constitution by adding a new section regarding sales and taxation of food and food ingredients. The resolution changes the rate of sales and compensating use on food and food ingredients to 4 percent starting July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2020. Following June 30, 2020, the rate would then phase down to 2 percent. This proposition, if passed by both 2/3 vote in the Senate and 2/3 vote in the House, would then be voted on by Kansas citizens during the 2018 general election in the form of a ballot referendum. The resolution was introduced but has not yet had a vote.

* Hearing on SB 165, providing insurance coverage for opioid-related treatments and establishing standards for use of emergency opioid antagonists - [Senate Public Health and Welfare, February 20, at 9:30am]

* Hearing on SB 155, enacting the cannabis compassion and care act, SB 164, club and drinking establishment act and consumption of alcoholic beverages - [Senate Federal and State Affairs, February 20, at 9:30am]

* Hearing on SB 174, authorizing Wichita area technical college to affiliate with Wichita state University, HB 2109, authorizing the state board of regents to sell, exchange and convey certain real property in Riley county and Sedgwick county on behalf of Kansas state university and Wichita state university - [Senate Ways and Means, February 20, at 10:30am]

* On the Floor All Day

* On the Floor All Day

* On the Floor All Day

Monday, February 20     Last day for morning committees to meet

Thursday, February 23    Turnaround, last day for non-exempt bills in house of origin

Friday, February 24 No session

February 27-March 3       No Session

Friday, March 24     Last day for non-exempt bill introductions, non-exempt committees to meet

March 27-30    On the floor all day

Thursday, March 30       Last day for non-exempt bills in either house

Friday, March 31     No session

Friday, April 7 Drop dead day, first adjournment

Monday, May 1       Veto session begins

Sunday, May 14     Day 90


Steve Fitzgerald
Kansas Senate, District 5