Legislative update: The good, the bad, and the ugly of tax policy
Kansas Action for Children
Jan. 29, 2021
We’re up to the third week of session, and we should address a basic question. Why does a children’s organization care so much about tax and budget issues? Put simply, if our state doesn’t have needed resources, the children and families most in need will suffer. That’s why we need robust and reliable sources of revenue – taxes – and a responsible plan to spend it for benefit of all Kansas – the budget.
But we don’t just talk about these issues. KAC's President John Wilson is a member of the Governor's Council on Tax Reform and participated in their latest meeting today. They discussed their policy recommendations, heard from experts, and were given updates on legislative activity, COVID-19, and the governor's budget. You can watch the meeting here.
Here’s what else we were tracking this week:
FISCAL POLICY: Food sales tax and a letter from experts
This week was busy for budget and tax issues at the Statehouse. On Thursday, the House Tax committee had a hearing on House Bill 2091, which would reinstate a refundable food sales tax credit for eligible Kansans. This bill would help low-income Kansans put food on the table and help offset Kansas’ high food sales tax rate (the second highest in the country). KAC was thankful to have fellow advocates provide testimony as well. You can watch our remarks here.
This Thursday was also the release of a sign-on letter to Gov. Laura Kelly and state legislative leaders from 40 Kansas experts in economics, public affairs, administration and other fields. The letter’s message was clear: In the face of economic strain and insufficient federal aid, Kansas must avoid budget cuts and choose tax increases instead. The researchers’ letter can be read here.
Unfortunately, despite this expert advice, the Senate Tax committee continues to discuss Senate Bill 22, a tax bill that would primarily benefit businesses and the highest-income Kansans, while reducing the State General Fund’s revenue by at least $600 million in the first few years (lawmakers are currently working to reduce the cost). Kansas could potentially be facing a budget shortfall in FY 2022, and we can’t afford that kind of fiscal hit.
You can contact Director of Fiscal Policy Emily Fetsch at [email protected].
EARLY LEARNING: National Teacher of the Year set for caucus
On Monday, the bipartisan Early Learning Caucus will meet to hear from the 2020 National Teacher of the Year, Kansas’ own Tabatha Rosproy. Tabatha is an early childhood educator in Winfield, and she is the first early childhood educator ever to be named National Teacher of the Year. If you are in touch with your lawmaker over the weekend, please encourage them to attend and hear what Tabatha has to say!
You can contact Early Learning Policy Advisor Mitch Rucker at [email protected].
HEALTH: Tracking the COVID-10 vaccine rollout
KDHE staff again jointly met with both health committees Tuesday. Kansasvaccine.gov continues to be the best central place to find information about COVID vaccines; a map is promised soon, to connect Kansans to local county-level vaccination information. Until then, the best information for vaccine availability comes from local county health departments.
The two committees separately continued to receive informational briefings on mental health services, including the K-12 mental health pilot project.
It interesting to note that when it comes to pandemic-related topics, many legislators tend to only ask pointed questions about where hiccups or issues have happened, which is an important part of their legislative oversight role. But it would be nice to see many more legislators asking, during an ongoing public health emergency, what resources KDHE and local public health departments may need (including more funding and staff), to better help Kansans navigate the pandemic.
Next week, the Senate health committee has several bill hearings on the agenda. The House health committee has several meetings set to “call of the chair;” but health-related bill hearings are on the horizon. We will continue to monitor those conversations. Stay tuned.
You can contact Health Policy Advisor Heather Braum at [email protected].
Kansas Interfaith Action is a statewide, multi-faith issue advocacy organization that works to put faith into action on a variety of racial, economic and climate justice issues. KIFA Advocacy Days, set for Feb. 9-11, will be an opportunity for supporters and coalition partners to bring citizen advocates into the legislative process during these tough times. For information and to sign up, click here.