The Kansas Senate finished a busy fourth week of session with committee meetings and bills coming forward. The Senate held floor debate on Tuesday and passed out two pieces of legislation.
Senate Floor Action
KPERS $115 Million Transfer – Senate Bill 9, transfers $115.0 million from the State General Fund to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund. The payment in its entirety will be paid to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS)-School group.
Returning Federal Tax Windfall – Senate Bill 22 was introduced in response to the federal windfall Kansas is expected to receive as a result of Congress passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCIA) of 2017. An unintended consequence of the Trump tax cuts would prohibit most Kansans who typically itemize deductions on their tax returns from itemizing their tax return. SB22 adjusts the Kansas tax code so that Kansans with itemized deductions that total between $7,000 and $24,000 can continue to itemize on their state income taxes even if they no longer itemize on their federal income taxes. Senate Bill 22 would allow taxpayers to itemize their tax returns and continue to deduct interest on their mortgage, property taxes, charitable contributions, and health care expenses. The issue is Kansas is a “conformity” state and now needs to decouple from this particular requirement. There is also a business component known as repatriation income and global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI). Kansas is one of a handful of states who has not addressed this new international tax phenomenon. Missouri has already addressed this and will not add this tax. Agriculture companies Cargill and Seaboard Corporation both testified in the Senate Select Tax Committee in favor of the bill. Tax rates remain the same, that is to say SB22 does not modify either individual and corporate tax rates. Individual tax rates remain unchanged: Wage Brackets of: Single/Joint – $15K/30K – 3.10%; $30K/60K – 5.25% and $30K+/60K+ – 5.70%. Corporate tax rates remain unchanged – 4% up to first $50K and 3% surcharge on earnings above $50K. Senate Bill 22 now moves to the House Tax committee for hearings where changes could occur before a full vote in the House Chamber.
Trucking 101 was presented to the Senate Transportation Committee by Tom Whitaker, Executive Director of the Kansas Motor Carriers Association. He noted when the public thinks of trucking companies they envision the large companies frequently seen on highways, however the Kansas trucking industry is made up of many small businesses. There are almost 11,000 trucking companies in Kansas and 98% of all trucking companies in Kansas operate 25 or fewer trucks and 46% operate only one truck. The trucking industry in Kansas provides 71,000+ jobs and the wages paid in Kansas are near $3.4 billion with an average annual salary of $48,000. The trucking industry in Kansas paid $359 million in federal and state roadway taxes and 49.3% of Kansas communities depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods.
Governor Kelly’s Education Funding Plan
The Senate Select Committee on Education Finance began hearings for Senate Bill 44, Governor Laura Kelly’s education plan. The bill would add $92 million per year to the $949.4 million the Legislature has already promised K-12 through the year 2023. The $92 million is an inflation figure, which is factored at a flat rate. The Senate Education Committee will continue hearings for Senate Bill 44 on Tuesday, February 12th at 1:30 pm.
Kansas Farm Bureau 100th Anniversary
On Thursday, members of the Kansas Farm Bureau gathered at the statehouse to celebrate the bureau’s 100th anniversary. In 1919, the Kansas Farm Bureau was established as a grassroots organization to strengthen and correlate the work of county Farm Bureaus to promote the development of the most profitable and permanent system of agriculture; the most wholesome and satisfactory living conditions; the highest ideals in home and community life, and a general interest in the farm business and rural life. The Kansas Farm Bureau has advocated and served Kansas farmers and ranchers through a wide range of programs, including agriculture education, leadership development, legal defense, rural development, and international trade. Through its work, the Bureau has played a critical role as the Voice of Agriculture in Kansas.
JAG-K Day at the Statehouse
Thursday, February 7th, was JAG-K advocacy day at the Kansas Statehouse. Jobs for America’s Graduates, Kansas is a non-profit organization that partners with students facing multiple barriers to success. The curriculum emphasizes graduating from high school and preparing students for post-secondary education or entering the workforce directly. The JAG-K program had a 97% graduation rate in school year 2016-2017. Students, educators, and program directors presented an overview of the program in front of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday before being recognized on the Senate floor during session. Former Concordia USD 333 Superintendent Bev Mortimer, who is now the Vice President of Programming for JAG, along with 20+ students visited Legislators in the Rotunda and committee hearings during the day.
Visitors from Senate District #36
As always, it is so nice to see visitors from home who either come to testify on bills or to attend functions with their organizations. Wednesday, the Rooks County Leadership delegation made their annual visit to Topeka. This is their 31st year in a row to visit legislators and to meet other officials during their stay. The State Independent Telephone Association held their annual meeting and reception with Blue Valley Tele-Communications, Cunningham Telephone, Nex-Tech, Twin-Valley Telephone and Wilson Telephone visiting the Utilities committee during the day and with legislators in the evening. Rural leaders from economic development offices, friends from home with the Travel Industry Association, members of Credit Unions across Kansas and Kansas Bankers Association representatives also visited with us this week for their annual events.
As always, I’ll keep you updated on the activities of the Senate while we continue through the last few weeks before turn-around. I always encourage you to stay informed of the issues under consideration by the Kansas Legislature.
Committee schedules, bills, and other helpful information can be easily accessed through the legislature’s website at www.kslegislature.org. You are also able to ‘listen in live’ at this website. The House meets at 11:00AM and the Senate at 2:30. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. An email is the best at this point in the session.
Thank you for the honor of serving you!
Senator Elaine Bowers
Kansas State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS 66612
Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia, is the 36th Dist. state senator and serves as the Senate Majority Whip. The 36th Senate District includes Cloud, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa, Republic, Rooks, Russell, Smith and Washington counties and portions of Marshall and Phillips counties.