Week 4; Jan 30 - Feb 3
This week in Topeka, the House Democrats responded to an unfair flat tax proposal, changes to elections, school voucher plans, and more. Governor Laura Kelly and the State Finance Council announced a follow-up megaproject to Panasonic. The caucus heard from the Working Kansans Alliance. Members of the caucus are attempting to repeal discriminatory child welfare and LGBTQ policy.
Flat Tax: Flat Out Unfair
Immediately after releasing HB 2061, the bill’s sponsors -- conservative Kansas Chamber of Commerce and GOP -- received a wave of backlash for the fiscal irresponsibility of the proposal. HB 2061, an aggressive, expensive “flat tax,” would cost Kansas more than $3 billion over the next three years.
Under this bill, Kansans making $250,000 or more would get an average of $5,000 in tax cuts and Kansans making $25,000 or less would get an average of $143 back.”
“Flat tax would have catastrophic consequences for Kansans. We’ve already seen it happen.” Opinion: Chris Courtwright & Frmr. Sen. Anthony Hensley, Kansas Reflector, 2/1/2023
“Push underway to implement flat tax in Kansas,” KWCH 12 News, 1/31/2023
“Gov. Kelly condemns flat tax proposal, touts plan to cut taxes on groceries and other supplies,” Kansas Reflector, 1/31/2023
The Elections Committee
The Elections committee has been packed with significant legislation this session, and this week was no different. Top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Brandon Woodard (Lenexa), led the charge against bills restricting mail-in voting, supporting run-off elections, and complicating drop boxes with other Democrats and allies on the committee, including Reps. Melissa Oropeza (KCK), Allison Hougland (Olathe), and Cindy Neighbor (Shawnee).
“Kansas ballot drop boxes need to be more secure, lawmaker says, comparing issue to 9/11,” Kansas Reflector, 2/1/2023
“Supreme Court takes up election official law,” Sunflower State Journal, 2/1/2023
“Kansas lawmakers weigh restricting mail voting and drop boxes. Could bills pass this time?” Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/1/2023
“Bill eliminating three-day grace period for voting clears committee,” Sunflower State Journal, 1/31/2023
“Kansas Republicans split on push to change elections; runoff election bill likely to fail,” KSNT, 1/27/2023
School Choice: “Tax Scams!”
The legislation expands tax credits given to parents who choose private schools over public schools. Rep. Jarrod Ousley (Merriam) captured the House Democrats’ position on the issues perfectly when he called public schools “the fabric of our nation.” Taxpayer money belongs in public schools -- NOT private schools.
“MAGA parents demand school choice and I can’t wait to say goodbye,” Opinion: Dion Lefler, Wichita Eagle, 2/2/2023
“School-choice debate heats up in Kansas,” Washington Post, 1/31/2023
“Kansas advocates debate school choice,” KSNT, 1/30/2023
Rep. Pam Curtis (KCK) has championed prevailing wage since she was elected to the legislature. This year, her hard work may bring a bill reinstating the policy across the finish line.
Prevailing wage is a fiscally responsible policy. Workers earn a livable wage while building skills and talents that contribute to the improvement of the state’s infrastructure and other public facilities like schools. Military veterans, who face unique challenges when returning to civilian life, would particularly see a benefit.
Representatives Heather Meyer (Overland Park), Susan Ruiz (Shawnee), and Brandon Woodard (Lenexa) introduced a bill to repeal the so-called “Kansas Adoption Protection Act,” which allows religious adoption agencies to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. The bill, which is certainly not about protecting adoption, was passed in 2018 after a late-night vote.
Labor in the House
This week House Democrats heard from the Working Kansans Alliance, “a coalition of union and non-union groups dedicated to protecting the rights of the hard working Kansas families that fuel our State’s economy at every turn.” The group collectively represents over 500,000 Kansans.
Across the Rotunda: The Senate Democrats
Senator Pat Pettey has a hearing next week in Senate Education on her bill addressing the teacher shortage facing Kansas schools. Senate Bill 66 would enact the Interstate Mobility Compact to recognize equivalent teacher licenses across member states.
The CHIPS Act Expands to Kansas: Integra Technologies
On Thursday, the State Finance Council approved an economic incentive agreement for Integra Technologies. Integra plans to invest in a large-scale semiconductor manufacturing facility in Wichita. The plant is expected to create 5,000 high-paying jobs. In addition, Integra hopes to secure incentives through the federal CHIPS act, which aims to create a domestic supply chain of semiconductors.
You can watch the State Finance Council meeting here.
“First, it was Panasonic and now Integra. Are tax-driven megaprojects good for Kansas?” Topeka Capital-Journal, 2/3/2023
“A $1.8 billion semiconductor plant is planned for Wichita through another Kansas megaproject deal,” KCUR, 2/2/2023
“Wichita company secures APEX incentives for $1.8B semiconductor plant,” Wichita Business Journal, 2/2/2023
I attended Wyandotte County Delegation given by the KCK Chamber of Commerce. It was great to hear all the ideas, collaborations, and legislative priorities being discussed.