20 March 2023 | Health Tax and Budget Economic Security Education Early Learning

2023 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 10

Kansas Action for Children
March 17, 2023

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Yet Another Flat Tax Proposal Tops $1.2 Billion

Last week, we shared that the House Taxation Committee Chair introduced a bill that would package several big tax policies together, including a flat tax proposal (of 4.95 percent). This week, the proposal received a bill number (HB 2457) and has a hearing scheduled for next Tuesday, March 21. If fully implemented, this bill would decrease state revenue by nearly $1.2 billion, with the flat tax portion making up a significant part of that decrease.

Under this new proposal, the top 1 percent will get a tax cut more than 30 times the tax cut that middle-income Kansas households would receive.

Meanwhile, the top 1 percent, or households making more than $622,000 (with an average income of $1.75 million), would receive an average tax cut of $11,628 under the new structure, while the lowest-income Kansans making less than $25,000 (with the average income in the bottom income group of just $14,000) would receive less than $121.

Put another way, the top 1 percent of Kansas households would get a tax cut nearly the same size ($11,628) as the average household income for the bottom 20 percent of Kansas tax filers ($14,000).

HB 2457 is a bad deal for working-class Kansas families, as it jeopardizes state funding for vital programs and services to give out huge tax breaks to the rich. Working Kansans stand to lose much more from eventual funding cuts than they stand to gain from any tax cuts in the HB 2457 proposal.

Kansas Action for Children will be providing opponent testimony during Tuesday’s hearing, and we encourage readers to reach out to their lawmaker and tell them the FLAT TAX IS FLAT WRONG for Kansas families.

Two Anti-vaccine Bills Introduced

The Senate seems determined to consider terrible vaccine policy changes yet this session. Two brand new bills (SB 314 and SB 315) dropped on Wednesday afternoon, with both already scheduled for hearings next week.

On Tuesday, the Committee will hear SB 315, which would make it much easier for anyone (adult or child) to receive an exemption from any vaccine requirement for basically any reason at work, child care, or K-12 schools. Organizations would be prohibited from questioning the “sincerely held beliefs” underlying a person’s request to be exempted from any vaccine requirement but this bill is silent on penalties for schools and child care facilities. The bill also removes the meningitis vaccine requirement for living in student housing at Kansas universities and colleges.

The current requirements protect us all. When even a few parents refuse to vaccinate their children, they put everyone in their community at risk of dangerous diseases, particularly infants and those with weakened immune systems due to chemotherapy, transplants, or other health problems.

On Wednesday, they will hear SB 314, which would forbid KDHE from ever requiring the COVID vaccine for child care or school attendance. This bill is particularly dangerous because this language becomes an amendment away from changing state law in a way that Kansas couldn’t require any vaccines for school, child care, or work.

If you would like to submit opposition testimony to these dangerous health bills, please contact Vanessa Crawford Aragon at [email protected] immediately.

KanCare Rally Draws Hundreds of Advocates to Statehouse

Hundreds of KanCare expansion supporters gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday and earnestly shared why 8 out of 10 Kansans support expanding the state’s Medicaid program. Will lawmakers pay attention and finally stop blocking this important policy change? Unfortunately, it seems like Kansas will go another year without helping more than 150,000 Kansans access the health coverage they need to get care. On Thursday, a floor amendment to expand Medicaid was defeated in the Senate.

Expanding KanCare would help kids, too, because more kids are likely to get signed up for health coverage and get health care when their parents sign up. The evidence for expansion is overwhelming and lawmakers must finally listen and act.

Public Dollars for Non-public Schools Squeaks by in House Vote

The House debated House Sub. for SB 83 on the floor on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. In February, leadership couldn’t get the 63 votes required for the voucher policy by itself, so the K-12 Budget Committee added funding for special education and teacher raises to entice members to support it.

After three hours of debate on Wednesday, and an hour of arm twisting, three members flipped their NO votes to YES, and the bill passed with 64 votes. The next day, the Senate quickly voted to send the bill to a conference committee where members of both chambers will work to find a compromise. Given the broad bipartisan opposition to the bill, negotiations between the Senate and House positions should provide an interesting dynamic.

Bill Changing Child Care Safety Standards to Be Worked Monday

While we had anticipated the Senate Commerce Committee could work SB 282, which changes several child care regulations, this week, we now believe it will be worked on Monday. We anticipate several amendments will be added to try to fix concerns raised by child care providers, including the age of employees and professional learning requirements.

KAC holds to our position that no number of fixes will make this bill worth passing since putting regulations into law leads the state down a path of setting current regulations in stone and making it much more difficult for the state to respond to best practices and community needs. It is likely we will have another opportunity for you to take action, so be on the lookout for how you can help stop this bill if it reaches the full Senate.

Senate Passes Its Budget Bill

The Senate passed its budget bill after a lengthy floor debate that included several amendments.

Sub. for SB 155 totals $24.7 billion ($9.2 billion SGF) for FY 2023 supplemental funding and $23.2 billion ($9.4 billion SGF) for FY 2024. This version of the bill does, unfortunately, exclude a long list of items originally in the Governor's Recommended Budget, which were removed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means for later review and discussion. These include the funding for Medicaid expansion, increased special education resources, state employee increases, and infrastructure matching grant funds for local governments.

Of several amendments proposed on the chamber floor, the following passed by majority vote and will be incorporated into the bill when the final vote occurs on Monday:

  • An across-the-board 3.25% reduction for agency budgets (excluding health, education, and public safety)
  • A requirement that state agencies will use E-verify to confirm that state employees, contractors, and subcontractors are eligible to work in the United States
  • A 5% budget reduction penalty for agencies not using performance-based budgeting as required by a 2016 statute

Among the failed amendments were:

  • Medicaid expansion
  • Special education funding increase
  • State employee pay raises
  • Removal of an anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion proviso also reflected in HB 2460

The House version of the budget, HB 2273, will be worked by the House Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday before it is brought to the full House chamber for floor debate and votes. The Appropriations Committee has already stripped Medicaid expansion entirely from the budget and will also defer discussion on state pay until later in the session. Additionally, the House budget bill will not include the Department of Education budget, which was moved to House Sub. for SB 113 under the purview of the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget.

Welfare Reform Committee Tweaks Child Support Cooperation Requirement for Child Care Subsidies

After a long delay, HB 2179 finally had a hearing in the House Welfare Reform Committee this week. The original bill proposed a simple solution: removing the requirement that parents cooperate with the child support program in order to be eligible for child care assistance.

However, on Thursday, the Committee decided to forgo simplicity and allow child support cooperation to be brought back into eligibility determination after 12 months of assistance. This is progress, as the restriction will now fall within federal guidelines, but the proposed process still limits the benefit to families and will continue to prevent children from receiving the high-quality care they need. The next stop is the House floor, and we’ll see if the House passes the amended bill, or if any amendments could be accepted on the floor to change other aspects of the proposal.

Legislators Likely to Act Soon on Food Assistance Restriction Bills

So far this session, the Legislature has not done what anti-hunger advocates hoped for when they reconvened in January: increase access to the food assistance program for all eligible Kansans. They could have done this with HB 2032, a bipartisan bill introduced by House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice that would get rid of Kansas’ permanent ban from food assistance on individuals with more than one drug-related felony conviction. An identical bill passed with only one “no” vote out of that committee in 2022 but was never heard on the House floor. This year, HB 2032 wasn’t even given a committee hearing.

Instead, the new House Committee on Welfare Reform has spent its time trying to further restrict access to groceries for Kansas families living on low incomes. The Committee has passed out only three bills this year, two of which would impose inflexible, one-size-fits-all program requirements for Kansas families at or below 130 percent of the poverty line who need temporary help making ends meet.

HB 2140, a bill that would make the work requirements for 50-59 year-olds on SNAP even more stringent, will likely be debated and voted on in the House any day.

HB 2141 has already passed the House and is scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare. This bill would force low-income families doing their best to co-parent their children into being up-to-date on child support payments or potentially being disqualified from receiving food assistance. This would do nothing to support the children the bill is supposed to help and would instead punish parents for temporary hardship. If you’d like to submit testimony to let the Committee know you oppose this bill, please contact [email protected] as soon as possible.

What to Expect in Week 11

There are just two more weeks left of typical legislative business before lawmakers go to conference committees to negotiate policies for which each chamber has a different position. This next week, committees will begin to wrap up their business so that their respective chamber can debate and vote on pending proposals, meaning that several bills will have hearings and will be worked. KAC will testify on several:

  • On Tuesday:
    • In Senate Health, we’ll submit opponent testimony on SB 315, which would make it easier for anyone (adult or child) to receive an exemption from any vaccine requirement for basically any reason at work, child care, or K-12 schools.

    • In Senate Health, we’ll submit opponent testimony on SB 234, which would devastate the ability of resource networks to connect families to services that help them meet basic needs.

    • In House Tax, we’ll present opponent testimony on HB 2457, yet another flat tax proposal that would cost more than $1 billion.

  • On Wednesday in Senate Health:
    • We’ll present testimony against SB 314, which would prohibit KDHE from ever requiring the COVID vaccine. The bill is one easy amendment away from the removal of all vaccine requirements.

    • We’ll present testimony in opposition to HB 2141, which would require non-custodial parents to be up-to-date on their child support payments to be eligible for food assistance.

Get day-to-day updates on what bills KAC is monitoring during the 2023 Session here. Follow along with us on Twitter @kansasaction to keep up to date with what happens throughout the week.