12 March 2021 |

Legislative update: Tax threats return for second half of session

Kansas Action for Children
March 12, 2021

The Kansas Legislature took the first two days of this week off and returned to business rather slowly. KAC was busy nonetheless, tracking active bills and planning for the rest of the session.

Nationally, the American Rescue Plan Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Biden. The law includes important new funding for kids and families, and we look forward to telling you about some of the provisions in weeks to come.

We also marked a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, upending so much in our lives. KAC Communications Director Clay Wirestone wrote about lessons learned from the year in the Kansas Reflector.

On to the updates!

FISCAL POLICY: Big, bad tax proposal arrives in the House

Next week brings another hearing for a big, bad tax bill. HB 2421 (closely modeled on the original version of SB 22) has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday in the House Tax Committee at 3:30 p.m. HB 2421 does not yet have a fiscal note, but since it is based on previous bills, we know it will be costly. KAC remains concerned HB 2421 would benefit primarily big business and high-income Kansans, reduce revenue, and prevent needed relief for Kansans who need it most. KAC will be testifying in opposition to the bill.

In much happier and non-legislative KAC fiscal policy news, Karuva Kaseke joined our team this week as the fiscal policy analyst. She has a public administration background and previously worked in local governments in Kansas and Utah. She focused on budget analysis and public education, combining her love of good governance and informed civic engagement.

You can contact Director of Fiscal Policy Emily Fetsch at [email protected].

HEALTH: Medicaid expansion pressure builds, but no hearing

We finally have one Medicaid expansion bill introduced – SB 287 – but where is the House version, which came up in committee more than two weeks ago? No committee hearing has been scheduled for SB 287, even as now is the time for Kansas to finally expand Medicaid, with an additional expansion incentive in the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

We continue to monitor several other health-related discussions, including the ongoing emergency powers conference committee (based on the shell of SB 40), vaccine prioritization authority (SB 295), other vaccine-related bills (SB 212 and SB 213), telehealth pay parity roundtable (scheduled for Wednesday in House Health), and budget discussions for health-related agencies and programs.

Finally, here's a COVID-19 vaccine resource shared by the Immunize Kansas Coalition, answering common questions about the vaccine: https://getvaccineanswers.org/.

You can contact Health Policy Advisor Heather Braum at [email protected].

EARLY LEARNING: Children's Initiatives Fund education

We didn't see much action on early learning policy this week, aside from a brief hearing on the Children’s Initiatives Fund in the House Appropriations Committee. For those unfamiliar with the CIF, it is the only dedicated source of funding for early childhood programs in Kansas, and it is overseen by a governing body called the Kansas Children’s Cabinet.

Money for the fund comes from the master tobacco settlement. Kansas receives about $50 million each year, though that number is declining as smoking decreases. While it may seem odd that funding for children’s programs is tied to tobacco sales, that’s how the system works. As we build our early learning infrastructure in Kansas, it will be essential to continue dedicating these funds to priority programs, and invest more state dollars. Kansas children and families shouldn't suffer as we improve public health through tobacco cessation initiatives.

A quick note on HB 2414: The expansion of the employer child care tax credit bill remains in the House Tax Committee and is not on the schedule for next week. While we are in a holding pattern, we expect to see movement on the bill before the Legislature recesses for its April break.

You can contact Early Learning Policy Advisor Mitch Rucker at [email protected].