Kansas 125th House District Representative Shannon Francis, left, offers some remarks from the happenings in Topeka as this year’s legislative session winds to a close. L&T photo/Robert Pierce

ROBERT PIERCE

   • Leader & Times

 

The 2024 session of the Kansas Legislature is nearing a close, but tax relief still appears to be in limbo.

“The big news is the pending veto,” 115th House District Representative Gary White said at the May 8 visit he and 125th House District Representative Shannon Francis made last week to the Depot in Liberal.

White said six previous tax bills had been sent to Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk, with each one vetoed, and a seventh is awaiting the governor’s decision.

“She’s already saying she might veto the one coming up,” he said. “I don’t know what she wants. Nobody knows what she wants. They’re meeting with her people. She’s meeting with her people saying, ‘What do you want?’ I can’t see how it’s helping her party.”

White estimated about 85 bills were passed in the House this year out of the 1,500 to 2,000 that came to the floor, and he said Kelly vetoed 16 of those, with the House overriding 10 of those vetoes.

“Some of them, we overrode, and the Senate didn’t,” he said. “Some of them, the Senate passed them, and we didn’t.”

White, a Moscow native, is finishing up his freshman term in the House, and he said he has learned much in his initial time in Topeka.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” he said. “You have to build relationships. That’s the part I like. I like to meet people. I like to get to know them.”

One of the bills looked at in this year’s House session concerned adoption, namely helping make the process a little easier for potential adoptive parents.

“It cost a lot of money to adopt, and there’s also a tax credit involved,” White said. “There’s some needs there, and we need to help.”

White likewise touched on an abortion bill discussed in this year’s session.

“When I go to a new doctor, you fill out all these questions,” he said. “One of them is ‘Do I have a gun in the house?’ That’s a federal question. The doctor has nothing to do with that question, and you don’t have to fill it out. It’s the same with abortion. There’s questions. What was going on in the last five years? The chair of health said they quit turning in the numbers. We want to know so we can legislate properly. We can help properly. We want to know those numbers.”

One of the bills vetoed by Kelly but overrode in the legislature earmarks $15 million in funds to send Kansas National Guard members to the southern border for national emergencies.

White said lawmakers also need to do something with a pesticide bill to assist farmers.

“The EPA wanted to stiffen up some rules, and we need to stay out in front of it,” he said.

Francis began his discussion by revisiting the tax bills that have been sent to Kelly’s desk recently.

“They always get vetoed,” he said. “The governor wants what the governor wants. In the legislature, we have to build consensus, and we need to find consensus on this.”

Two of the bills, Francis said, were passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the House.

“In the current bill, we do away with the bottom tax rate,” he said. “The bottom tax rate right now is 3.1 percent. Everybody pays that.”

Also with the current bill, Francis said standard deductions and exemptions would be increased.

“We’ve raised the dollar amount you start to pay taxes,” he said. “The new bottom rate would be 5.2. We basically did away with the 3.1, and the top tier, we moved from 5.10 to 5.7. The governor has said she doesn’t want us to spend more than X number of dollars. Our current plan in front of her is $3 million a year more than the amount she’s said she’s wanting.”

Francis said property tax changes too could be seen if the current bill passes.

“One of my goals as we go forward in the state legislature is to get out of the business of property tax,” he said. “We need to leave that income source to our local governments.”

Currently, the State of Kansas gets 20 mills in property tax. Under the first tax bill the legislature sent to Kelly, that rate was reduced to 18 mills, and Francis said under the current bill, the rate would be 19.5 mills.

“As we continue to go forward, we’ll be encouraged to decrease that amount,” he said. “One of the things that’s very important to the Democratic Party is we accelerate the elimination of the food sales tax. It’s currently set to go off Jan. 1.”

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