February 29th, 2024
L&T Opinions Page

ryckmanRYCKMAN RECAP, Ron Ryckman, 38th District Senator


The Topeka Capital-Journal carried a headline that parroted the Governor’s description of the Republican tax proposal as “reckless.”  It prompted me to think to myself, “Hmmm … I’ve certainly been witness to ‘reckless’ government spending before, but just how exactly does that term apply to reductions in taxes?” Ever notice how your opponents seem to accuse you of whatever they themselves are doing? 

Then, lo and behold, an interest group supportive of our plan put out a press release saying essentially, “No, Governor, you are the one who is being ‘reckless’ with your denial of reasonable, affordable, and much-needed tax relief to every Kansas citizen.” Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m part of the highest level of state government and not back on a grade school playground where it was not uncommon to hear “It takes one to know one!” or “You’re one, too!”  Maybe that’s why when we take a break from legislating, they call it “recess!” 

Perhaps the best comparison I’ve seen yet on the “Republican” and “Governor’s” tax plans came this week from a D.C. policy analyst with the Tax Foundation, Katherine Loughead.  In advocating for a lower, flat tax, she observed that a graduated structure penalizes additional labor and investment, reducing the value to Kansans of working more hours, finding a higher-paying job, or making income-generating investments. Then it occurred to me that keeping barriers to upward mobility and wage growth in place is exactly what many on the other side want in order to maintain control through government dependence, whereas we seek to lift people up. Notably, if all the reforms in HB 2284 were in effect today, Kansas would move into the top half of states on the 2024 Business Tax Climate Index. Kinda makes you wonder about motives and philosophies, doesn’t it?

 Speaking of “control,” another local decision-making issue was heard in my Federal and State Affairs Committee this week on whether to allow individual cities and counties to impose bans on the use of plastic containers. The bill, HB 2446, actually had a pretty hefty total of 36 what are called “conferees” (witnesses) testifying either pro, con, or neutral on the proposal, with the predominant argument being the need for consistency with businesses that operate in multiple locations. Just as with last week’s “home rule local flexibility” matter dealing with the mailing out of ballot applications, I am normally inclined to defer to individual principalities, but on this one the statewide uniformity concept also tends to have a valid economic appeal.  Interesting how local government organizations seem to separate from local business associations on the matter.

 Following up on that just-mentioned ballot applications measure, the underlying bill, SB 366, was moved out of our Federal and State Affairs Committee Jan. 30, with my coming down on the side of personal voter responsibility for making such requests. There are always exceptions for those truly in need of assistance, of course, but I was reminded of a famous Winston Churchill quote that “Accepting personal responsibility is the price of greatness.” Similarly, former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis once said, “Responsibility is the great developer; it builds your character.”  That exact same theme was invoked on the Senate floor later in the day relative to what we say, when the deliverer of the Invocation reminded us to “… think before we speak.  Before our lips start moving, cause us to pause and (remember) that our words will (never) be overlooked (or) easily erased.” Good advice, huh?

 In the lead-up to what will likely be an override attempt on the Governor’s tax cut veto next Tuesday, numerous legislators are wearing badges around the halls that say “310K,” which is intended to serve as a reminder that HB 2284, if enacted, will result in 310,000 Kansans being completely freed of their tax burdens. I heard one member of leadership say only half-jokingly, however, that it “stood for a poor man’s 401K!” Even more prominent than the badges was the “Wearing of Red for Women” on Thursday, symbolically standing for the fight against heart disease. My predecessor, Senator Bud Estes — whom we miss dearly — never failed to stand out on this annual occasion with his bright red jackets and trademark bold ties. He was truly one-of-a-kind, both as a senator and a maker of fashion statements. While I could never compete with his wardrobe, I have to think he is still looking down approvingly on my voting record.

 One thing we could definitely applaud together was the KDHE Environment Division announcement this week of three “Small Town Water and Sewer Infrastructure” grants to our cities of Copeland ($600,000), Ingalls ($112,000), and Hanston ($499,000). They are for a new well and interconnect, sewage lift station, and non-discharging lagoon, respectively. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it, that towns with populations right at 250 each can get the attention and assistance they need at the state level to facilitate much-needed improvements? Meanwhile, the State Department of Transportation has also undertaken the construction of way-too-long-delayed passing lanes on U.S. 50, the first just east of 118th Road and the second east of 127th Road to 129th.  Bringing you good news like this is my favorite part of being your “voice” in Topeka, for which, as always, I am most proud and privileged.

GUEST COLUMN, Kim Baldwin, Kansas Farm Bureau


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