Politics & Government

Capitol Beats: Budget proposal dominates first week of legislative session

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State address Tuesday night. Behind Brownback is the Speaker of the House, Ron Ryckman, left, and President of the Senate, Susan Wagle. (Jan. 10, 2017)
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State address Tuesday night. Behind Brownback is the Speaker of the House, Ron Ryckman, left, and President of the Senate, Susan Wagle. (Jan. 10, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

Check this spot on Sundays for a few quick hits about what’s driving the debate in the Legislature.

Say what?

“It is the glow of the rising sun, a glow that is both brilliant and oddly tranquil, almost otherworldly. … That glow speaks to me of a future full of light and peace that will only be achieved through difficulty.”

– Gov. Sam Brownback ending his State of the State address by exhorting lawmakers to look to the state’s seal, which features a rising sun, for guidance this session

“That’s the sugar. But if you take the sugar and eat the dessert first, it’s harder to get the meat and potatoes down.”

– House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, on why lawmakers should pass a comprehensive tax reform bill, which will take longer to craft, rather than a bill rolling back an income tax exemption for business owners

48.6 percent

That’s the percentage of the state’s money that is spent on education, the biggest item in the budget, in the governor’s proposed budget for 2018. The next biggest category is human services, which makes up 32.4 percent of the budget.

Trending

Brownback’s budget proposal was the biggest topic of discussion in Topeka during the first week of the session. Initial reaction from lawmakers was largely negative. Republican leaders panned the governor’s reliance on one-time money, and one Democratic lawmaker called it the worst budget she had ever seen.

The governor’s proposals promise to spur heated debates as lawmakers weigh whether to take money from the highway fund, slow pension spending, put all of the state’s teachers under one state-run health plan and sell off state’s future proceeds from the tobacco settlement to get cash now.

News ahead

The House Taxation Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would roll back Brownback’s signature policy, an income tax exemption for owners of LLCs and certain other businesses. Repealing the exemption, which was established as part of Brownback’s 2012 tax reforms, would bring in an additional $250 million a year to help offset a budget shortfall.

Brownback has repeatedly opposed efforts to undo the policy and could find an unlikely ally in the Legislature’s Democrats in blocking the bill. Democrats have criticized the exemption for years. But Democratic leaders took the unusual step of voicing opposition to the bill Friday because it doesn’t go far enough. Democrats say the Legislature should pursue comprehensive tax reform instead of the partial fix of repealing the exemption.

Bryan Lowry

For more legislative news, go to www.kansas.com/politics and follow @BryanLowry3 on Twitter.

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