TOPEKA — Several political organizations converged on the Capitol on Monday to deliver what they say is the “People’s State of the State Rally.”
About 70 people from across the state rallied on the Capitol’s steps for expanded Medicaid services, less religious influence in the Statehouse, medical marijuana, workers rights, a repeal of new voter registration laws, increased education funding and other initiatives.
“You can’t create a fake budget emergency by slashing taxes for your cronies and then cry poverty when it comes to funding vital services,” said Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas. “We won’t be taken in by that sort of foolishness.”
The rally comes a day before Gov. Sam Brownback is set to give his State of the State address, where he’s expected to talk about the budget shortfalls projected as a result of the income tax cuts he approved last year.
Many expect Brownback to propose extending a sixth-tenths of a cent sales tax that was set to expire in July as the primary way to accommodate lower income tax rates for individual tax filers and elimination of nonwage income taxes on many small businesses and farms.
While many lawmakers balk at the idea of extending the sales tax, administration officials have suggested Brownback may offer further reductions to income taxes as an enticement.
KanVote planned to use the rally to call on lawmakers to repeal a law that went into effect this year that requires people registering to vote in Kansas for the first time to show proof of their U.S. citizenship. They submitted a petition they say includes 1,000 signatures calling for repeal.
The group also pressed its case last week at a legislative forum in Wichita. Lawmakers at the forum said they may consider some changes to the law because some people have difficulty obtaining the documents they need to register to vote.
KanVote, formed in the wake of new voter ID laws, aims to monitor election and voting issues. The group has criticized the law pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach because many say it effectively blocks voter registration drives and is a barrier to voting.
Kobach said he thinks KanVote is out of step with Kansans because most people support the proof of citizenship measure. He said the state hasn’t had any problems with the law since it went into effect two weeks ago.
He said Kansans can get necessary documents free. Or, if they’re from out of state, they can sign affidavits swearing they can’t get access to approved documents and that they’re U.S. citizens.