The Kansas House has passed 91 bills
this session. 53 bills were passed
by the House this past week.
House passes plan to reverse 2012 tax law, Governor vetoes.
The House passed a plan last week to reverse several provisions in Governor Brownback’s 2012 tax law. The House plan (House Bill 2178) – which I voted for - passed on a bipartisan vote of 83-39. It would do the following:
- Fix the LLC loophole, which has exempted certain businesses in the state – about 330,000 entities that are organized as Limited Liability Corporations - from paying income taxes;
- Reinstate the medical expense deduction so that seniors and those with major medical expenses can return to deducting those expenses from their income taxes;
- Restore the ability for business owners to deduct their losses rather than having to pay income taxes on those losses;
- Prevent cuts to our K-12 schools this budget year, and help get the state budget back on track rather than perpetuating the borrowing tactics and one-time fixes that have plagued Kansas finances over the past several years;
- Transition Kansas back to a three-bracket income tax system. Governor Brownback’s 2012 changes collapsed those brackets into two, giving wealthy Kansans a bigger break than middle- and low-income Kansans. Under the House plan, income tax brackets and rates would be as detailed in the chart below.
Married filing jointly
|Married under $30,000
|Married $30,000- $60,000
The Senate voted last week to approve the House plan, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk for final consideration. On Tuesday night, the Governor announced that he would veto HB 2178. The House attempted a veto override on Wednesday morning, securing enough votes to override the Governor’s decision. I voted yes to override the Governor. However, the Senate fell three votes short of overriding the Governor. When the Legislature returns March 6, the tax and budget committees will go back to the drawing board.
Though this plan wasn’t perfect, it offered several options for moving the discussion forward and getting us closer to real revenue reform. I am disappointed that the Governor, in his veto, did not offer any viable solutions in place of the one presented by the Legislature.
Health and Human Services
House approves health care plan drafted by local hospitals, doctors
This past week, the House held several hours of floor debate on a plan designed to protect health care services in our state. The plan, contained in House Bill 2044, was put together by Kansas hospitals and medical providers as a way to reduce uncompensated care in our emergency rooms and increase access to preventive care for low-income working Kansans. Hospital and adult care home budgets across the state are being strained by the costs of treating those who fall between the cracks – in this case those who are currently not eligible for Medicaid and those who are working but unable to afford health insurance premiums. Ultimately, the tab for uncompensated care falls on our hospitals and on higher health insurance premiums for all of us.
The hospitals’ plan is intended to mitigate part of this problem. It passed the House as part of House Bill 2044 on a vote of 83-40. I voted yes. This plan will leverage federal dollars – that are currently going to hospitals in other states instead of our own – to develop a premium assistance program for working Kansans who earn less than 133% of the federal income poverty level or who are eligible for employer health insurance coverage but cannot afford the premiums.
The hospitals designed the plan to be budget neutral so that, instead of requiring additional state taxpayer dollars, the hospitals have indicated it will be funded by using existing dollars more effectively and leveraging federal dollars through the Drug Rebate Program and a program privilege fee. The additional revenues coming into our state will directly benefit our local hospitals, adult care homes and mental health clinics – all of whom supported this bill. The legislation also drew support from the Topeka Chamber of Commerce and local chambers of commerce in communities across the state. During committee hearings, testimony indicated that 31 hospitals in the state are considered on the brink as our population continues to age and the cost of health insurance continues to rise. Though our district is not in a predominantly rural area, we are still impacted. When smaller surrounding hospitals close, that puts an increased burden on our local health care facilities and on our medical providers – specifically Stormont-Vail, St. Francis and Valeo - as they attempt to serve more and more people.
During the floor debate, a number of “postcard” amendments were offered up. I’ve found that postcard amendments – those offered up by politicians who are more focused on creating campaign rhetoric than solving real problems - are common in the Legislature. Though these amendments touched on policy issues the Legislature can and should debate, I voted against tacking them onto this bill because they were intended to derail passage of the underlying policy and had not received thoughtful vetting in the committee process. House Bill 2044 will next go to the Senate for consideration.