A Weekly Rundown of Important Activity in Topeka, from a Principled Perspective
WEEKS 8 & 9 - MARCH 11, 2018
“If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again. You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility.”
 - Antonin Scalia
The Facts of the Matter will be a feature in The Truth Report each week, highlighting important information, some of which is not always reported or emphasized in the mainstream press:

  • The 2018 National Right to Life Convention is being held in Kansas. The National Right to Life convention is being held in Overland Park, Kansas from June 28-30. For more information, visit
Have you heard our Kansas Truth Minute spots yet on airing on more than 30 radio stations across Kansas? We have three playing right now with more in the works. These are one-minute spots highlighting unique facts about our state – as well as facts about what’s happening in state government.

You can listen to the three playing now on our website:
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.
NFIB: Small Businesses Can’t Afford Higher Property Taxes

Key Excerpt:

As we know anecdotally, small businesses rank property taxes among the most despised taxes because they pay the tax whether they are producing income or not. Indeed, our research backs up this claim. In NFIB’s most recent  Small Business Problems and Priorities , a publication with extensive research on the problems facing small businesses, property taxes were the 8th most concerning issue, which was just ahead of state income tax rates at 9th.
Transparency Center: Follow the Kansas Legislature
Both the House and Senate have taken historic steps towards the promotion of open government. For the first time, 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:

Truth Caucus Expresses Opposition to Increase in Property Taxes
Topeka, KS – On Tuesday, March 6th, the House Taxation Committee held a hearing on HB 2740, a bill which would increase the statewide property tax levy for K-12 education. Under the bill, the statewide mill levy, which is currently at 20.00 mills, would increase in stages – to 26.76 mills in school year 2018-19, to 32.82 mills in school year 2019-20, and eventually increase to 38.43 mills in school year 2020-21. 

In response to this proposal, the Kansas Truth Caucus issued the following statement expressing its strong opposition to any increase in statewide property taxes:

“Last year, Kansans were forced to accept a massive $1.2 billion retroactive tax increase, even affecting those with low incomes. On top of that, many Kansans are facing higher property taxes because of a controversial valuation process. To further burden hard-working taxpayers of Kansas by sharply hiking the statewide mill levy is unacceptable. Just as the Kansas Truth Caucus opposed the tax increase last year, we stand in firm opposition to proposals such as HB 2740."
Liberal Legislation Watch: Kansas House Undermines Local Control on Education
From time to time, the Truth Report will have a “Liberal Legislation Watch," where we will highlight legislation that would undermine conservative principles by implementing liberal policies.
Topeka – On Thursday, March 8th, the Kansas House adopted HB 2757, which repeals the common sense reforms that the Kansas House enacted in 2014 that enhanced local control by providing local school boards the authority to negotiate due process for teachers. HB 2757 reverses that, usurping local control and creating a statewide mandate on an issue best left up to school districts.
More than 20 House members gave an Explanation of Vote that echoes the view of the Kansas Truth Caucus:
“Mr. Speaker, we vote No on HB 2757. Local control should be more than a campaign slogan we all use on our campaign postcards. If we truly believe in it, we should stand by it – not make exceptions when special interest unions declare they want a state mandate. HB 2757 undermines local control by involving the state in an area that belongs with local school boards that are duly elected by local citizens for the very purpose of deciding these policy questions. We believe in and stand with our quality teachers and against this infringement on local school districts."

Kansas House Adopts Bill Providing Transparency for Taxpayers on Economic Development Projects
Most Kansans likely cannot keep track of the many tax incentives, exemptions, and other giveaways that both state and local governments often hand out in the name of economic development. A good example of these programs is STAR Bonds. Whether good or bad, the public has the right to know what these programs are and how they are working.
To address this, the Kansas House passed Sub for HB 2572, which would require the Department of Commerce to establish a database for the purpose of disclosing information on economic development incentive programs, including certain income tax credits and locally-granted property tax exemptions in addition to various programs administered directly by the Department.  

The bill passed 114-7.
Kansas House Adopts Tax Credit for Companies that Hire Blind, Disabled Workers
This week, the Kansas House adopted HB 2416, which provides tax credits for companies that hire blind and/or disabled workers, making it easier for them to find work.

To qualify under the bill’s provisions, businesses would have to primarily do business in Kansas and maintain a workforce where 30% possess a disability. This would be certified by the Department of Commerce. The bill was carried by Rep. Les Mason and adopted unanimously.

 As Rep. Chuck Weber said , “It brings a level of dignity to our people with disability when they work, so I fully support this bill.”
Senate Falls Short in Adopting Convention of States Resolution
On Thursday, a majority of the Kansas Senate voted to approve SCR 1611, the resolution calling for a Convention of States. Because the Kansas Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of each chamber to adopt a resolution calling for a convention, it fell short, earning only 22 votes of the 27 needed to pass.

The Convention of States, as proposed in SCR 1611, calls for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution to address the following:

1.        Fiscal restraints on the federal government;
2.        Limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3.        Limiting the terms of office of federal officials, including members of Congress

Article V of the United States Constitution provides two methods of proposing amendments. The most commonly-known method involves both the U.S. House and Senate adopting an amendment with a two-thirds majority, which then sends it to the states for ratification, which requires 38 out of 50 states to do so. The other method the founders provided was to allow two-thirds of the state legislatures (presently 34) to make an application calling for a convention to propose amendments. Any amendments proposed by delegates to that convention would have to also be ratified by three-quarters of the states – presently 38.

Because Congress has been unable to make any substantial progress in imposing fiscal restraints on itself, or limiting its power and jurisdiction, the Convention of States effort was launched as a grassroots movement. Currently, 12 states have passed resolutions calling for a convention, using the language proposed by the Convention of States. A measure has passed one chamber in 9 additional states. 

Kansas is unique because while most states only require a simple majority of its legislative chambers to call for a convention, our constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority.
Wichita Eagle Exposes Web of Special Carve-Outs in Kansas Tax Law
On February 26 th , the Wichita Eagle published an article by Jonathan Shorman discussing the multitude of tax exemptions that are provided in Kansas law. As the article reveals:

All told, Kansas grants more than $6 billion in credits and exemptions each year, according to a  report last fall  from state auditors. The vast majority — about $5.9 billion — comes from sales tax exemptions.

Just over 80 percent of what the state gives away in sales tax exemptions is required by the federal government or needed to avoid double taxation, auditors said in a 2010 review. For example, Kansas has a sales tax exemption for food stamps based on federal law.

That means the state directly controls about $1.2 billion a year in exemptions and credits.”
In the past, conservatives in the Kansas Legislature have attempted to reform the process for granting exemptions and/or repeal some with the goal of reducing overall rates for all Kansans. 

As Rep. John Whitmer said in the article:
"If we had had that kind of revenue coming in, would they have had to do a $1.2 billion retroactive tax increase? Would we be fighting the courts? My take: Yes, because we would have spent all that money anyway. But I’m sure it would be a different picture.”
Every week, the Truth Report will have a “Wallet Watch," where we examine efforts to remove money from the wallets of hard-working Kansans.  
As addressed earlier in this report, the Kansas House Taxation Committee held a hearing on HB 2470, which proposes a steep increase in the statewide mill levy. A large coalition of interest groups – ranging from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to various agricultural interests – testified against the bill.

Though HB 2470 appears to have little support, particularly at the level of increase proposed in the bill, it is noteworthy that it is even being considered, particularly in light of recent controversies regarding valuation increases in places like Johnson County. 

In addition, there is a desire by some to propose more spending on various projects, including $600 million more on education. To accomplish that, the money must come from somewhere. Given the legislature has recently enacted both sales and income tax increases, some may think exploring a property tax increase is the next step.

Taxpayers will have to be vigilant to watch for proposals for smaller increases that would still be devastating to property owners throughout Kansas.