GUEST COLUMN, Shannon Francis, 125th District Representative
It was great to be home for a long weekend and to show our great community to our state elected officials. Thanks to all of you that visited with them and showed them some real Liberal hospitality.
The Legislature completed the first half of work Feb. 23, ahead of the Turnaround deadline, when non-exempt bills have to be considered in their house of origin. Work continues on the big issues, including the budget, taxes, and redistricting.
Highlights of the first half of the 2022 session include:
• Passing the map for federal Congressional Districts, known as Ad Astra 2, in SB 355.
• Approving SB 347, the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act. APEX will enables companies making a minimum investment in Kansas of $1 billion over a five-year-period to be eligible for certain tax incentives subject to accountability measures.
• Extending protections to keep hospitals and adult care homes staffed by temporarily removing some of the red tape in rules and regulations in HB 2477.
• Standing Against Antisemitism, with unanimous approval of HCR 5030.
• Giving citizens the opportunity to vote on two constitutional amendments: HCR 5014, which ensures legislative oversight of rules and regulations and HCR 5022, which protects the right of voters to elect their county sheriff.
• Condemning price gouging that occurred during the February 2021 extreme cold weather event: HCR 5023.
• Honoring Gold Star Families with a memorial on the Statehouse grounds: HB 2540.
• Establishing a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license for Kansas kids, HB 2456.
Important legislation awaiting action in the second half of the 2022 session includes:
• Ratcheting down the sales tax responsibly on not only food, but on other purchases our families need to make through a plan that makes meaningful tax cuts, rather than just giving away small, one-time handouts.
• Stabilizing the KPERS retirement fund, so that it will be there for our teachers, our firefighters, and other public employees when they need it.
• Securing the Rainy Day Fund, so that our families will not be on the hook for higher taxes as the economy ebbs and flows.
Legislation has been introduced to accomplish these priorities.
HB 2711 creates a comprehensive tax plan that reduces the state food sales tax rate from 6.5 to 3.5 percent, while creating a path to zero if funds are sufficient in the Budget Stabilization Fund. The plan also lowers the state sales tax rate from 6.5 to 6.3 percent, addressing the totality of sales tax relief, rather than a limited focus like the Governor’s proposal. The food sales tax income tax credit becomes a refundable tax credit, effectively taking food sales tax to zero for those that we have heard need it most – families with children, seniors, disabled citizens.
HB 2561 uses the budget surplus to stabilize the KPERS system, bringing KPERS above the 80 percent funded level, lowers future costs for taxpayers by reducing the state’s share of employer contributions, and saves $82 million in FY 2023 and $429 million over the next five years. The bill also fully funds 2017 and 2019 delayed payments and eliminates the annual $25.8 million payments on these delayed employer contributions. HB 2561 has passed out of the House Insurance and Pensions Committee and awaits action by the House.
The work to put a portion of budget surplus funds into the Rainy Day Fund awaits action by the House Appropriations Committee.