A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
Week Three -- February 3, 2019
“And our administration, and our movement, will continue to fight until our nation once again recognizes and celebrates the sanctity of all human life.”
~ Vice President Mike Pence
The Facts of the Matter is a feature in The Truth Report each week, highlighting important information, some of which is not always reported or emphasized in the mainstream press:
  • Kansas Sales Tax 8th Highest in Nation. Kansas has the eighth highest state and local average sales tax rate, according to a new study from the Tax Foundation. It revealed that Kansans pay an average of 8.67 percent in sales taxes on retail purchases within the state. (Source)

  • The 1859 Kansas Constitution Makes No Mention of Abortion. A case currently before the Kansas Supreme Court is worrying many pro-life Kansans, because a lower court ruled that there is an independent right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution, which was crafted in 1859. In examining the historic document, we can find no mention of that right. In fact, Article 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights says, “§ 1. Equal rights. All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Source)

  • Medicaid Expansion Does Not Help the State Budget. Tom Bell, President and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association, has claimed “...not only does expansion pay for itself, it could actually help the state budget.” In reality, Medicaid grows faster than the budget as a whole. For reference, in fiscal year 2018 Kansas state fund expenditures grew 6.1%. Its private economy grew 1.0%, but Kansas Medicaid spending grew 7.5%. When spending grows faster than the private sector, if left unchecked, tax rates will rise. (Source)
News & Views is a weekly collection of relevant news items and editorials regarding what's going on in Topeka and around the State of Kansas.
Life is Under Attack
By Vice President Mike Pence ( Source)
Vice President Mike Pence penned a column in National Review which discusses the efforts in New York and Virginia to legalize abortion up to the point of birth and even beyond. However, as the Vice President points out, there have been enormous pro-life victories in other parts of the nation, including here in Kansas. 

Key Excerpt:
And thanks to the efforts of millions of compassionate and caring Americans across the country, we are changing minds and turning hearts to embrace life as never before. Fewer abortions are being performed than ever recorded — a  decrease of more than 50 percent since the 1980s . This is a true cause for celebration.

So even in this dark moment in our nation’s history, Americans should take heart. The New York and Virginia bills aren’t some bold departure into a brave new world. They are the last gasp of a dying movement that stands in stark and irreconcilable contrast with our nation’s timeless founding principles.

After all, at the base of the same One World Trade Center that was bathed in pink last week to mark the passage of New York’s law, is the September 11th memorial. There, the names of all who died in the horrific terrorist attacks 18 years ago are etched in stone — including the eleven unborn children we lost along with their expectant mothers.

Our commitment to the unalienable right to life is as sure as the stone in which those names are etched. And our administration, and our movement, will continue to fight until our nation once again recognizes and celebrates the sanctity of all human life.
Transparency Center: Follow the Kansas Legislature
You can view video streaming of both chambers via the Kansas Legislature YouTube page. In addition, many committees are now audio streamed. Finally, the Kansas Legislature website remains a great resource. Here are the relevant links:

YouTube Streaming:

Tweeting the Truth: Truth Caucus Responds to Kelly Budget “Facts” 
On Thursday, Laura Kelly pushed a video on Twitter claiming six “facts” about her budget which were misleading at best. In response, the Kansas Truth Caucus published a series of tweets, including graphics, refuting that message.

To see the Twitter thread, click here:

Here are the claims we refuted:
  • The governor claims to balance budget without tax increase. The TRUTH is budget goes under water in three years and absent legislation allowing Kansans to keep windfall, her budget does include a tax increase. The ranking Democrat on the on the Tax Committee admitted as much when he said, “Technically, it is.” (a tax increase)

  • The governor claims to provide school funding “so our students can succeed.” The TRUTH is she ignores the billion-plus increases in K-12 education the legislature recently passed and provides no new ideas except automatic unsustainable increases with no accountability or alternatives for under-performing students.

  • The governor claims to provide affordable healthcare and support rural hospitals through Medicaid Expansion. The TRUTH is Medicaid Expansion forces families off private insurance and onto government-run healthcare, moves able-bodied adults ahead of the elderly and disabled, and provides no silver bullet to save hospitals.

  • The governor claims to reinvest in Kansas roads and bridges. The TRUTH is the Kelly budget continues to "rob the bank of KDOT" by well over $200 million going forward.

  • The governor claims to pay down the historic debt level. The TRUTH is the Kelly budget pays off the zero interest PMIB loan yet it also adds $7.4 BILLION of KPERS debt at 7.75% interest – putting our pension plan at risk.

  • Finally, the governor claims to promote fiscal responsibility and leaving the largest ending balance in 20 years. The TRUTH is the FY 2018 ending balance was larger both in dollar amount and percentage – plus the proposed increase of billions of dollars of new debt is anything but fiscally responsible.

All in all, when put together, Governor Kelly essentially claims her budget rights all wrongs by using fuzzy math that simply does not add up. In reality, her budget spends too much, adds to our debt, and includes a tax increase. We can and must do better.
Surprise! Kelly Medicaid Expansion “Working Group” Proposes Medicaid Expansion 
Last week, we highlighted that Governor Laura Kelly appointed a “working group” of several individuals to help her craft legislation to bring more ObamaCare to Kansans by expanding Medicaid. Early this week, the “working group” – which existed for just five days and met in private if it ever met at all – proposed Medicaid Expansion, which was the exact same type of proposal we had seen in past years.

Proponents of Medicaid Expansion essentially describe it as a panacea for many ills – the troubles facing rural hospitals, affordable health care, even the state budget. The picture they paint has a faux finish, however, as the evidence demonstrates that Medicaid Expansion is a substantial risk and a poor policy decision for states, growing government and increasing dependency along the way. There are several key points to consider:

Medicaid Expansion will never result in a benefit to the state budget. In the governor’s budget, just the first six months of Medicaid Expansion adds up to $14.9 million. Even with current caseloads, Kansas Medicaid spending grew 7.5%, whereas FY 2018 general fund expenditures fiscal year 2018 Kansas state fund expenditures grew 6.1%. Long term, the picture gets even murkier given the likelihood the federal government’s share would drop from 90% in the future, which would greatly increase state spending and would result in Medicaid taking up an even bigger slice of the state budget.

Medicaid Expansion would not save rural hospitals. Despite rhetoric from proponents claiming that hospitals, such as the one in Fort Scott, would not have closed if we had Medicaid Expansion, there is no evidence to support this claim. For instance, Ft. Scott Mercy Hospital Inc. claimed a $13.4 million annual loss. Under ObamaCare expansion, Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott would have seen an estimated additional $2.7 million. The numbers just don’t add up. Rural hospitals are struggling for other reasons – including declining populations and low reimbursement rates for patients on Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicaid Expansion would put 150,000 able-bodied adults onto the government health care system, removing an estimated 75,000 from private insurance. Medicaid is intended for our vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly, the disabled, and low-income children. Expanding Medicaid and increasing government dependency by adding people to the program hurts those who it is intended to help. A report from the Foundation for Government Accountability notes that states that expand Medicaid under ObamaCare put their neediest patients at risk:

"ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion has drawn a line in the sand. On one side, the states that reject Medicaid expansion in order to protect their most vulnerable patients; on the other are the states that embrace ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and put their neediest patients at risk."

The Kansas Truth Caucus responded to the governor’s proposal with the following release:
Kansas Truth Caucus Responds to Governor's Medicaid Expansion Plan
The Kansas Truth Caucus issued the following statement regarding the governor releasing her plan for Medicaid Expansion:
"Over the last five days, Laura Kelly engaged in what appears to be a publicity stunt by naming a 'working group' that produced a plan which is the same big government approach we've seen before. Rather than removing regulations to allow more affordable health care options, the governor's plan adds 150,000 able-bodied Kansans onto the government health care system, expands government control of the health care industry, drives many Kansans off of private insurance, and increases dependency on government programs.  There is also a likelihood that future federal funding levels drop below 90%, placing our state further at risk. We should be preserving resources to help those who Medicaid was intended for - our most vulnerable citizens."
Senator Ty Masterson, Chair of the Kansas Truth Caucus, said, "Nancy Pelosi once said we have to pass this bill to know what's in it. In the same spirit, today Governor Kelly asked the Kansas legislature to pass sweeping Medicaid changes recommended by her working group. A working group formed for just five days, whose meetings were never open to the public and whose findings have never been shared."

Legislators Send Letter to New York
This week, Rep. Steve Owens led a large array of legislators, primarily composed of members of the Kansas House, in sending a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The letter objects to the recent passage of the law that would allow abortions up to the moment of birth, as well as objecting to the usage of Freedom Tower to mark the passage of the bill. 

The letter can be viewed by clicking here .
Attack on Transparency: Proposal Would Repeal Sunshine Rules for Supreme Court Nominating Commission; Give Lawyers All Power
Last week, the governor decided that KOMA requirements did not apply to her “working group” that was charged with crafting a proposal that would significantly alter the way the state of Kansas approaches health care. 

This week, allies of the governor and her left-wing agenda doubled-down on their efforts to attack transparency by proposing to repeal a number of common-sense provisions that provided sunshine to the judicial selection process.

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 2020, which would make a number of changes and have a drastic and harmful effect on transparency, as well as on our system of checks and balances as it pertains to the election of and proceedings of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

Among the provisions in the bill:

  • Undermines checks and balances by eliminating a requirement that the Clerk use a certified roster of attorneys provided by the Secretary of State when determining which attorneys are entitled to ballots in Supreme Court Nominating Commission elections or district judicial nominating commission elections and other associated requirements;

  • Rolls back protections on election integrity by reducing the preservation of ballots and certificates from Supreme Court Nominating Commission elections to six months instead of five years, and providing that ballots and certificates could not be inspected unless ordered by the Supreme Court;

  • Strikes a blow to transparency by striking requirements that the Clerk create a list of names and addresses of persons who returned a ballot in a Supreme Court Nominating Commission election or district judicial nominating commission election and send them to the Secretary of State;

  • Eliminates the ability of the public to view the proceedings by eliminating the requirement that the Supreme Court Nominating Commission and district judicial nominating commissions are public bodies and subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act and would remove limitations on closed or executive sessions;

  • Scores a double hit on both election integrity and checks and balances by changing the canvassers involved in a Supreme Court Nominating Commission election or district judicial nominating commission election from the Clerk, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General to the Clerk and two or more persons who are members of the Kansas Bar residing in the state, as designated by the Chief Justice;

During the hearing, a number of organizations tilting to the left – including the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association and the Kansas Bar Association, who want to control the process of selecting judges – provided testimony in support of the bill.

The efforts by these groups to remove the important reforms enacted to bring transparency to the judicial selection process highlights the need to change the method of judicial selection to begin with. The fact that they will go to such lengths to even remove basic checks and balances and important transparency demonstrates how determined they are to maintain their power.

Currently, when it comes to the highest court in Kansas, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission – comprised of four gubernatorial appointments and five people selected by lawyers in Kansas – submits three names to the governor, who must choose among the three. There is no Senate confirmation and no input from the public. 

The reforms enacted by the legislature at least allowed sunshine into the process, but further reform is still needed. A federal model, where the governor appoints anyone they desire, subject to Senate confirmation – is currently used for the Kansas Court of Appeals. As we press for this reform, what we cannot do is rollback the basic efforts at open government that HB 2020 would destroy.
Senate Advances SB 22 to Prevent Tax Increase
The Kansas Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Code Implementation passed out SB 22, which would pass along the “windfall’ from the Trump tax cuts in 2017 to Kansas taxpayers, for whom it was intended. Failure to pass the measure would result in an automatic tax increase for Kansas taxpayers, right at a time that many are preparing to file their taxes. 

The reason for this is because of differences between the federal and state tax code. The tax bill helped families by increasing the standard deduction to $24,000 from $12,000 – however, the Kansas standard deduction is far less generous -- $7,500 for families and $3,000 for individuals. This would result in a tax increase, unless Kansas passes a law that would allow Kansans to itemize on their state tax return even if they do not on their federal tax return. 

In addition, Kansas must decouple from key corporate provisions used to broaden the federal tax base and lower the corporate rate or Kansas businesses will see significant increases in their Kansas tax liability. This hurts Kansas businesses – and the Legislature should act. Kansas has never historically taxed foreign income, but without passage of SB 22, businesses headquartered in Kansas will be taxed on their foreign earnings.

Incredibly, one Democrat against the legislation justified the government keeping the money because companies haven’t indicated they’ll leave the state:

“In fairness to these corporations, none of them have said they’re going to move elsewhere.”
This mindset indicates that the philosophy of the governor and her allies is that Kansans should be taxed as much as possible. 

Instead, we should be lowering that burden so these companies want to stay in Kansas and other companies are encouraged to locate here.
SB 22 should get a vote next week in the Senate. The Kansas Truth Caucus believes the money belongs to the people. As Kansans file their taxes, they need to know their elected representatives stand with them.
Meeting Our Obligations: Senate Advances SB 9 
Despite once labeling a similar proposal “short-term thinking”, the governor has proposed to re-amortize KPERS, which would extend the debt to 2049 and cost the state over $7 billion – all so she can spend more $143 million now. This plan has been labeled as “unwise” and “terrible.”

In contrast, a large array of Republican Senators have proposed to meet our obligations through SB 9, which would transfer $115.0 million from the State General Fund to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund. The payment in its entirety will be paid to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS)-School group. The payment would reduce the actuarial required contribution rate, improve the funded ratio of the KPERS-State/School group, and provide a net contribution savings.

The sponsoring Senators are Senators Alley, Baumgardner, Billinger, Braun, Denning, Estes, Goddard, Hilderbrand, Kerschen, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Rucker, Suellentrop, Tyson, and Wilborn.

This week, the Committee on Ways and Means advanced the bill to the Senate floor, where it is expected to earn a vote as soon as next week.
Left-wing Legislation Alert: Democrats Propose Same-Day Registration
A coalition of left-wing legislators has proposed legislation that would undermine the integrity of our elections by allowing people to register to vote on Election Day – and vote on the same day. The bill would add a burden to county clerks and county election officials around the state by eliminating the traditional 20-day time frame.

Under the bill, county election officers would be required to allow a person who is not a registered voter and appears at the county election office to apply for an advance voting ballot to register and vote immediately by a regular, rather than provisional, ballot. The bill would also require that the provisional ballot be counted unless the county board of canvassers determines that it was improperly cast or that the person has otherwise voted in the election.

The fiscal note on the bill states, “According to the Office of the Secretary of State, enactment of SB 43 would result in increased expenditures of approximately $50,000 annually from agency fee funds. Of this amount, $25,000 would be used to update all training and education materials used by the agency staff, the general public and county election officials and to conduct special training sessions on the new law for county election officials. An additional $25,000 would be used to provide public outreach materials and programs to inform the voting public of the change. The agency indicates that enactment of the bill would also cause increased costs for the 105 county election offices.”

It goes on to say, “The Kansas Association of Counties also states that enactment of SB 43 would cause additional expense to Kansas counties for training and staff; however, the Association is unable to estimate what that cost might amount to. Any fiscal effect associated with SB 43 is not reflected in The FY 2020 Governor’s Budget Report .”
An unnecessary expense and regulatory burden combined with the risk posed to the integrity of our election process renders this bill an unwise solution in search of a problem.   
Every week, the Truth Report contains a “Wallet Watch," where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
As noted above, a critical vote is coming up this week in the Kansas Senate on SB 22, which would pass along the intended savings from the Trump tax cuts to the people of Kansas. Not passing the bill would result in an automatic tax increase on the people of Kansas, including thousands of families who would like to enjoy the benefit of increased standard deduction on the federal level while still being able to itemize on the state level. 

Simply put, a no vote on SB 22 is a vote for a tax increase.