2023 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 4
Kansas Action for Children
February 3, 2023
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Extreme Tax Cuts Threaten Spending Priorities that Would Help Kansas Kids and Families
As we learn more about the “flat tax” proposals we told you about a few weeks ago, the impact is starting to look worse and worse. The estimated cost of the proposed flat tax bills (SB 61/HB 2061) has a massive $1.5 billion price tag. Some lawmakers are proposing these corporate and individual income tax cuts while child care, health care, and special education continue to remain underfunded.
And it’s not just the overall price tag that is concerning, but also how it is distributed. The top 1 percent would receive an average tax cut of nearly $11,500 under the new structure, while lower-income Kansans would receive less than $200. In total, about half of all the tax savings would flow up to the top 20 percent of Kansas taxpayers.
As we told the Sunflower State Journal this week, KAC finds the projected cost of a flat tax proposal troubling. It is extremely short-sighted to use what is likely temporary surplus revenue for a permanent change. We know this will get us right back to where we were nearly a decade ago: crumbling roads, underfunded schools, and continued lack of child care.
A flat tax will limit the state’s ability to provide crucial programs and services. It equates to yet another tax break for the highest-income taxpayers, and the giant price tag jeopardizes investments that would build a strong state. We will continue to firmly oppose this specific flat tax proposal and any related compromises proponents might have in store.
Welfare Reform Committee Doubles Down on Restrictions to Family Support Programs
The House Committee on Welfare Reform introduced a few bills and discussed even further restrictions that would harm Kansas families. One would expand the harsh work requirements that “able-bodied adults without dependents” are subject to under the food assistance program to other public assistance programs, which Chairperson Awerkamp noted was still being drafted and the impacts of which he was not certain of at the time of introduction. The other relates to data cross checks for food assistance program eligibility.
That second bill came after an informational hearing from DCF’s chief counsel, who oversees all fraud investigations, and Equifax, which already contracts with DCF to complete employment verification for assistance program applicants. Equifax’s written remarks focused largely on the Medicaid program, which the committee has not indicated they will discuss or work on at all. Their spoken remarks went into further detail regarding a new continuous monitoring model they offer that provides constant and immediate data sharing to DCF on applicants and participants in programs like food assistance, child care assistance, and TANF. When asked about the cost of moving Kansas’ contract to this system, no dollar amount was offered but the speaker noted it would certainly be an increased contract cost to the state.
On Thursday, the committee heard from DCF regarding a change needed in the child support cooperation requirement for child care assistance to come into compliance with federal regulations and a general overview of child support cooperation requirement options for the food assistance program. At the end of the committee, advocates from Kansas Appleseed and Kansas Action for Children were unexpectedly asked to speak about Kansas’ modified ban from food assistance for individuals with more than one drug-related felony conviction, the subject of HB 2032, which would reverse this ban. We hope the committee will support this bill in its current form.
Newborn Screening Bill Introduced; National Group Pushes Misinformation in Health Committees
As bills continue to be introduced, we are excited to share that SB 139 was introduced this week. This would expand the Newborn Screening Program and increase the program’s budget cap to $5 million. The program currently checks more than 35,000 Kansas newborns each year for 34 different conditions, including genetic or metabolic issues, as well as hearing loss and critical heart defects. These conditions are undetectable at birth without screening, and early diagnosis and treatment give these newborns the best chance at healthy development. Undetected and untreated, many of these conditions can lead to life-long medical treatments and high costs, as well as serious complications, including brain damage and death. We are optimistic this bill will continue to receive bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, both the Senate and House Health committees spent some of their time listening to a troubling presentation from the national organization “Do No Harm.” A representative of the organization criticized initiatives and changes in health, hospital, and medical school programs that work to address systemic racism, implicit bias, diversity, equity, and inclusion. During both meetings, several lawmakers raised numerous concerns about the information presented, like his false claims about racial health disparities and outcomes, Kansas’ medical school admission standards, and implicit bias having a potential effect on providing care. A more in-depth recap was provided by the Kansas Reflector. The organization indicated they may pursue legislation in Kansas to address their criticisms; we will be watching for this legislation with deep concern.
Advocacy Day at the Statehouse to Engage Lawmakers on Child Care and Early Learning
KAC, along with other partners in the Partnership for Early Success, is excited to be sponsoring the Child Care and Early Education Advocacy Day on March 1. We are partnering with organizations across Kansas to bring an experienced perspective on issues facing the field.
Participants will spend their day in the Statehouse building connections with lawmakers to communicate the importance of quality care and education environments in all communities by sharing personal experiences. Books and stories will be shared throughout the day, and the Rotunda will be transformed into a learning space for sharing these experiences.
With partners from 10 different organizations, we anticipate a wide range of advocates coming together to promote our message for the day: young children need safe environments to learn in and be cared for, whether that be at home, in a child care center, or with a family-based child care provider.
What to Expect in Week 5
Next week will start to see more fast-paced action than we have currently seen this year. KAC will provide testimony on several bills:
- On Tuesday in the House Committee on Welfare Reform, KAC will present opponent testimony on HB 2140, which would make it harder for Kansans in their 50s and the children in their lives to have enough to eat for every meal.
- On Tuesday in the House Committee on Social Services Budget, KAC will present testimony on the proposed budget for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, showing support for several budget items, like expanding Medicaid and increasing the funding cap for the Newborn Screening Program.
- On Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Education, we will submit testimony in opposition to SB 83, which is the Senate version of the tax credit expansion for those contributing to a private school scholarship program.
- The chair of the Welfare Reform Committee indicated that two bills regarding child support cooperation requirements for child care assistance (HB 2179) and food assistance (HB 2141) are likely to have hearings on Thursday, Feb. 9.
Get day-to-day updates on what bills KAC is monitoring during the 2023 Session here. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @kansasaction for updates throughout the week.