Hawver: Wailing and Rending of Garments

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

After a week’s wailing and rending of garments, we’re going to find out whether Republicans can make a big enough deal out of the four line-item vetoes Gov. Laura Kelly inflicted on their third try at passing a budget to give them what they can call a political win.

Kelly’s vetoes last week are relatively low-dollar, and there’s not a lot of outcry from anyone affected by them except for legislative Republican leaders. Democrats have been largely silent on the line-item vetoes which are worth a total of about $54 million from the multibillion-dollar budget.

Only significant spending cut accomplished with a ballpoint pen is $51 million in accelerated repayment of money borrowed in earlier (Republican Govs. Sam Brownback/Jeff Colyer) era from the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS).

That $51 million? It would be atop a $115 million pay-back to KPERS that lawmakers and the governor made earlier this year which most state retirees are still celebrating.

The objection to that KPERS veto? Mostly formulaic, with Republicans generally saying that Kelly is punishing the retirees, that she plans massive “grow the government” spending increases in the next years—you rarely go politically wrong by tossing money at KPERS.

For Democrats, well they are relatively quiet on their Democrat governor’s KPERS veto, mostly citing that earlier $115 million and the need for the state to hold down spending so that there is less need for tax increases in future years.

All stuff we’ve heard before from both parties. No adrenaline rush here…

The whittled-down income tax bill that Kelly vetoed? So far, hall talk puts override success as unlikely, but that’s the biggie for Republicans. Win that one, and few will notice the budget bill’s line-item vetoes. But if the GOP can’t beat Kelly on taxes, then it’s time to talk about KPERS, and those other, smaller cuts she carved into the Legislature’s budget.

And who is going to be politically excited by overriding a $705,000 cut from a Board of Pharmacy program, or $1.8 million from the Department for Aging and Disability Services or $1.2 million for Department of Education for a reading research program? Oh, they are all probably nice programs, but the majority of Kansans have never heard about them. Angering voters about those line-item vetoes would take longer than most politicians want to spend on the effort.

At this point, just a year away from the House and Senate standing for reelection, it might be politically valuable for conservative lawmakers to scratch up the paint on Kelly’s official state SUV…just to show that they’re still in the game.

It’s all about Medicaid expansion that Kelly lost this session by a handful of votes and clever parliamentary maneuvering in the Senate and the possibility that the tax bill she vetoed might be overridden and become law.

If it comes down to a scrap over the line-item vetoes, we’ll know that the politics of the session remain up in the air. For Kelly, win on taxes, lose on Medicaid expansion. For the GOP legislature, lose on taxes, win on Medicaid expansion…or so it seems. The Medicaid battle is mostly GOP leadership with thin margins that Kelly hopes to overcome this summer.

***

Chances look good that nobody’s going to claim a real victory this session. Not the new governor, not the still-Republican (but moderating) legislature, and probably not Kansans.

Hard to consider this session just a warm-up for the real fight ahead, but at least that will make the upcoming 2020 session worth watching…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Consensus Revenue Estimate

Well, we got last week the Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE) for the upcoming two years of government in Kansas, and it was so low-key that you could have worn the same shirt the next day. No excitement.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

That CRE, assembled by a group of state fiscal experts and university economics professors, predicts the state is going to take in about $15 million more in the next two years than most of us thought. Oh, there was good news in that the tiny predicted increases of money for the state to spend came after the Legislature and governor had spent $115 million this spring to repay money borrowed from the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. So, the estimate on which the budget will be crafted reflects spending that most would consider reasonable.

But…there was no excitement. For a Legislature that stands for reelection next year it wasn’t bad news—no tax increases needed to keep the Statehouse doors open—but also not enough increase in revenues to support much of a tax cut for those Kansans who will vote next fall on whether to send their legislator back to indoor parking, drinks and meals from lobbyists and, oh yes…running state government.

Practically, that CRE means that there isn’t any real need for a tax increase—except maybe taxing some of that neat stuff you buy over the Internet and wait two days to be delivered. That’s almost a freebie. Sales-tax that Internet stuff like you tax the sales at brick and mortar stores which sell the same stuff. Doesn’t sound very radical, does it?

The low CRE increase isn’t all bad news. It might actually have the effect of finally spending some money on things like, well, K-12 finance, on social workers and prison guards and those social policies that don’t show up for all of us, but which make the state a better place to live and maybe provide better lives for those who live here.

That isn’t the sort of policy/spending that leads to exciting discussions at the screen door between candidates and voters, or that leads to fascinating palm cards to hand out, but it probably means that lawmakers get to spend time concentrating on better management, more effective programs and a more businesslike government.

So, what’s possible with the meager increase in state revenues?

Look for some little tax cuts, specifically targeted to improve lives.  Not the $130 million that corporations wanted. When there’s not much money to spend, lawmakers tend to focus on voters, not corporations.

And with not much money for tax cuts, that mostly-for-show one percent cut in the sales tax on food likely will be thought through a little better than what was mostly decoration on the tax cut bill vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly. Remember that? As icing on the corporate/upper-middle class tax reduction bill, lawmakers cut the sales tax on groceries by a penny on the dollar. Spend $10 at the grocery store? You save a dime. Not exactly the way to see Kansans better finance their rent or car payments or kids’ school clothes, is it?  There are surely better ways to help the poor than with pocket change that won’t even buy a candy bar.

Nope, no excitement from the revenue estimate. Sorta like catching your car door before it swings out and bangs the other car. But there’s a dab of money there and while it will take a little longer to explain, those social programs, health care, prison guards, pre-school education for children all pay off as good investments.

Just not very flashy.

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Puff of White Smoke

Martin Hawver, Columnist
Martin Hawver

Thursday will be, well, not quite the same as a puff of white smoke emerging from the Vatican to signal selection of a new Pope, but close for us habitués of the Kansas Statehouse.

It’s the day that the Consensus Revenue Estimating (CRE) Group posits just what the state will book in revenues for the remainder of this fiscal year (to June 30) and for the upcoming fiscal year.

That estimate becomes the basis for every dime in spending that the Kansas Legislature will approve for the rest of this, and all of the next, fiscal year.

It’s the bank account. Don’t over-spend, and at the same time, don’t not spend enough to provide Kansans the services that they want their state—and its governor and Legislature—to spend on them.

The group, professors and economists and such, looks at virtually every tax number available. Then they estimate just how much of that will wind up in the State General Fund, and then the governor and legislators spend it.

This year’s CRE will provide the first good look at the “trickle down” of the December 2017 federal income tax cuts, which presumably freed up more money for the state to levy taxes against.

Businesses—those with overseas interests—that have been pushing for $130 million in income tax cuts to keep their tax bills level may or may not be able to recalculate just how much in the way of tax breaks they need to keep their profits stable or growing. Then they just have to squeeze it out of the Legislature.

And individual income taxpayers? Not sure, but the CRE will likely tell us how those federal income tax changes—lower rates—will work to make more of their income taxable by the state. Remember, Kansas income tax calculations start with what’s left over after you’ve paid your federal income taxes.

While the rate reductions are a key to that CRE computation, it may well tell legislators just how those new and higher federal standard deductions ($12,000 for single filers, $24,000 for marrieds filing jointly) will work with the state’s standard deductions. Remember, because the Legislature hasn’t “de-coupled” those standard deductions, if you can’t top the federal standard deduction then you are stuck with the Kansas standard deduction–$3,000 for singles, $7,500 for marrieds filing jointly.

What might we learn Thursday? Well, it starts with CRE predicting enough revenue to finance government, and probably pick up some of those services that have been squeezed the last few years because revenues were lower than hoped.

And if the estimate is for more money than needed for those basics? Well, after saving a dab for fiscal safety, there’s likely to be some room for tax cuts—possibly even this legislative session.

Of course, then the fight over the tax cut bill that Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed starts again, but at least there would be an identifiable amount of money that can be spent on tax cuts—after the social welfare, education, transportation and administrative pieces of the state budget are taken care of.

How much will be floating around? We’ll know Thursday.

And who gets that loose change in the state’s pocket?  Corporations? Probably not. Individual income taxpayers? That’ll be fun to watch. Give it to the poor and middle-class or give it to the wealthier Kansans. As we recall, each of those folks gets one vote, and there are more Kansans in the lower brackets than at the top.

That CRE puff of white smoke? It might blow in a lot of directions…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Veto of the Tax Cut

Governor Laura Kelly vetoed that massive tax cut bill that she didn’t like and says the state can’t afford; it doesn’t appear that action, first veto of her term, will be overridden.

 

Martin Hawver, Columnist
Martin Hawver

Oh, there’s talk about it, but practically, the votes don’t appear to be there for the override. And leaders in the House and Senate who supported the bill and would like the override aren’t interested in seeing a failed veto attempt diminish their power or perceived power, so don’t look for that override try.

 

Let’s see how a veto vote works. Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, leader of the Senate GOP with enough Republicans but not votes to override, won’t get it done. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, is similarly situated. Plenty of Republicans, just not enough votes. Why try when it’s likely to fail, and both Wagle and Ryckman will hear from constituents “…and you still couldn’t get Kelly overridden?” That talk gets old the first couple dozen times you hear it.

But…there are some smaller tax cuts, none related to the biggest portion of that three-year $230 million cut for corporations doing overseas business, that are in the air and low-buck enough that they wouldn’t wreck Kelly’s first budget.

Watch for property tax “relief.”

Nice thing about it for the Legislature is that whatever happens to property tax cuts doesn’t happen here…in the Statehouse and the State General Fund, but rather with local units of government. It’s called “free” tax cuts, paid for by local units of government which live on property taxes, but with legislators’ names on the bill.

Does it get any better than that? Tax cuts, no cost, and all the glory that legislative candidates can make fit on their reelection palm cards.

The Senate, which tends to lead this year in major legislation, has passed its major property tax cut bill this year and sent it to the House.

It puts a freeze on property taxes at the current level—if you’re 65 or older, or a veteran with a 50 percent disability.

Oh, and if your household income (all who live there) is less than $50,000 a year, and the house is valued at less than $350,000, whether it’s paid off or not.

That means if you qualify for the program, you get to go to the picnics and get to hear your neighbors gripe about property tax increases, while you just reach for another beer or handful of chips.

Oh, there are some other tax cuts floating around, but with the biggie now off the table, nobody’s come up with a sales tax exemption for, say, assault rifles or holsters for those concealed-carry fans.

Key, of course, is to find a group whose taxes can be cut slightly but memorably, at relatively low cost. And while Kelly is firm about not cutting taxes (or, rather, receipts) enough to damage the budget, there are probably some little measures out there…

Already, there’s been a bill that has gone nowhere to exempt from state income tax Social Security payments, which is expected to cost somewhere north of $70 million in lost revenues, but revenues from folks who vote and from folks who remember who saved them money.

Possible? Probably not, it’s a narrowly focused political tax cut, but every retiree will remember it, and probably their children will get to hear about it at every gathering.

The tax cut issue isn’t over, though it doesn’t look good for those multinational corporations. And it’s going to have to be relatively low cost.

Let’s see where this goes next…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Calendar is Ticking

Well, the clock, or rather, calendar, is ticking–or whatever calendars do to make noise—on the tax bill that the Republican legislature sent to Democrat Governor Laura Kelly, who doesn’t want it.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

And…that ticking clock is aiming toward Friday, the 10th day that the governor will have had the tax bill–that she didn’t want passed–on her desk. By or on Friday, she can sign the bill (in which case, we suspect a breath alcohol test would be in order), veto as expected or allow it to become law without her signature (another breath test?).

You know the story, the $220 million bill that she continues to say she doesn’t like and which she said would return Kansas to the former Gov. Sam Brownback “tax experiment” days that drained the state budget and caused massive reduction in services.

The bill is good for an initial estimated $137 million in tax cuts for businesses which have international earnings the federal government is now taxing, about $50 million for individual income taxpayers, about $42 million in reduced sales taxes on food and about $21 million in additional revenues to the state from taxing some Internet purchases. That all adds up to about $220 million less money coming into the State General Fund in the year which starts July 1.

(OK, time for the cultural explainer: Conservatives say that the income tax bill’s provisions aren’t a tax cut, they are merely a tax stabilizer. Those conservatives say Kansas didn’t change the federal tax code that makes more money available for Kansas to tax, and those “adjustments” just keep Kansas from profiting from the federal tax law change.)

Timing is the big issue here. Kelly will have to do something with the tax bill before there are solid numbers on how the federal tax law changes the state’s tax receipts from corporations and individuals.

Kansas leaders aren’t likely to know just how much “extra” federal trickle-down money the state is going to receive from that December 2017 federal tax law change until April 18. That’s when the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group figures out how much money the state is going to take in next year, and presumably how much of it is from those federal tax law changes.

By the way, the Legislature will be on Spring Break on April 18, will return for its “Veto Session” May 1, and have 16 days to work out the tax/budget issue before coming to the end of its traditional 90-day session.

Hmmm…taxes and spending, the two major duties of the Legislature, and so far, there’s been passed a major tax-cutting bill before lawmakers know how much they need to spend next year. Admittedly, lawmakers are working on what they call the “Mega” budget, which is essentially, well…the essentials for operating government. There will be at session’s end the “Omnibus” bill to deal with new expenditures, to reshuffle spending once they know just how much money they will have to spend and to figure out what they can afford.

But the tax bill action this week is going to shuffle everything. Veto the bill, there’s more money to spend, sign (or allow it to become law without the signature of Kelly) and there’s less money to spend.

Who’s in the gunsights: Look for the real scrap to be over the biggest tax reduction, that for corporations, which want the tax cut badly but don’t vote.

The tax bill, interesting fight between the Governor and the Republican-dominated Legislature. We’ll see whether the revenue report April 18 resuscitates any of those tax cuts…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Medicaid Expansion, School Funding, Taxes and Budget

It took quite a while, but we’re finally getting to the part of the session where most of the boys would be advised to wear protective cups as debate sharpens over school funding, taxes, the budget…and Medicaid expansion.

Martin Hawver, Columnist
Martin Hawver

Things heated up last week when the Senate passed to the House what is the governor’s proposal to appropriate $92 million to the State Department of Education that the governor and (at least publicly) the Senate believes will meet the Kansas Supreme Court order to adequately finance K-12 schools.

The Statehouse grew hotter when the Senate bought some minor House amendments to its major corporate/individual income tax cut bill and sent it to the governor for a (bet on it) veto.

And the session flashed when both the House and Senate (the Senate more artfully) reached into their separate “Mega” bills–the major appropriation legislation of the session–to take the $14 million Gov. Laura Kelly proposed to expand Medicaid (we call it KanCare in Kansas) health care to more than 100,000 mostly poor Kansans.

That flashpoint on Medicaid expansion is probably the most insider politically interesting.  Kelly put in her budget that $14 million, the state’s first-year price tag of Medicaid expansion, that will create a system in which the state will pay 10 percent of health-care costs for poor Kansans and the federal government will pay 90 percent of those bills.

The Legislature passed Medicaid expansion in 2017, saw former Gov. Sam Brownback veto the bill, and was unable to override that veto. But the numbers were big, back then. The Senate mustered 25 votes for the measure, the House 81.  But 81 votes weren’t enough to override the veto.

This year, it appears that the Senate and House might have votes to expand Medicaid and don’t have to worry about a veto. Getting that expansion bill to the floor for debate is the problem.

So, with conservative leadership in both chambers opposed to Medicaid expansion…what happens to that $14 million that Kelly put in her budget…that $14 million that will draw more than $500 million in federal money for health care for Kansas’ poor?

The House Appropriations Committee just took that money that Kelly proposed for starting the program and tossed it back into the all-purpose State General Fund.  Nope, there’s no policy bill on the horizon that would expand Medicaid, but at least that $14 million would have allowed Kansas to operate the program if it found its way to the governor’s desk.

The Senate? It’s Ways and Means Committee was a little more politically clever. A majority of that panel doesn’t want Medicaid expansion but chose to take that $14 million the governor wants and keep it within the Department of Health and Environment…for a different purpose.

Now, Health and Environment isn’t exactly a cuddly agency, but the Senate committee took that $14 million and appropriated it for an increase in the fees it will pay physicians for care of the poor. Two years ago, the Legislature cut doctors’ KanCare payments by four percent. Restoring that four percent costs about $14 million.

So, the Senate can say it favors health care for the poor, just not a whole lot more of them, as some doctors are now refusing to care for Medicaid clients because of low reimbursement. The Senate panel is voting to pay doctors more to keep them in the Medicaid system, which sounds relatively socially progressive, doesn’t it?

Of course, none of that $14 million juggling matters if Medicaid isn’t expanded. And that’s one reason to watch the budget bill—which can’t be amended to include Medicaid expansion–to see whether that $14 million sliver pops the budget…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Tax Cut?

The major tax cut bill of the 2019 Legislature has now passed, in slightly different forms, both the House and Senate and we’re waiting to see what happens next…and next…and possibly next as the 2017 federal tax cuts trickle down into state finances and politics.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

The Legislature’s tax debate wasn’t all that exciting because, well, it’s a tax bill and it is complicated and technical. So, the excitement starts now.

Key is that both the Republican-controlled House and Senate have agreed to the major income tax cut provisions of the bill. The Senate baked the cake, with about $187 million in income tax cuts this year, about $50 million for individual income taxpayers and about $137 million for corporate income taxpayers. Next year, the ratio changes, with some individual Kansans seeing about $60 million in cuts, corporations about $51 million in cuts.

And when that cake got to the House, well, it got frosted. The House added a 1 percent cut in the state sales tax on food (from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent) which will cost the state about $43 million in lost revenue next fiscal year and about $66 million in lost revenue (or, kept by food buyers), partially paid for by a new Internet sales tax, which might bring in about $21 million next year and maybe $33 million a year after that.

The next thing to happen will be when the Senate decides whether it wants that appealing frosting. We all want to pay less sales tax on the food or anything we buy, and those local stores don’t want Internet sellers, to not have to collect Kansas sales tax that they have to charge customers, which costs them, customers.

Now, part of the House’s frosting looks better than it’s actually going to taste. Dropping the sales tax on food (starting Oct. 1) is going to leave a little more change in Kansans’ pockets. And the guy buying steak gets the same percentage cut as the guy buying bologna. Hard to tell whether either will notice the sales tax cut, but the provision is probably worth mention on a campaign palm card.

And everyone who has a store is by this time tired of customers saying they can get stuff cheaper over the Internet…especially without a 6.5 percent sales tax added in as local stores must.

So, watch for the Senate to decide next week whether to negotiate those food and Internet taxes or just OK them and vote to send the bill to the governor.

Next after that?

It’ll be the governor likely vetoing the bill because it will upset her budget and because nobody’s really sure yet just what that federal tax cut /expansion “trickle down” is going to mean to state revenues. Lots of guesses, lots of charts and tables and explanations, but the Department of Revenue hasn’t actually counted the dollars in additional revenue that federal tax cut will send to Kansas.

While the House and Senate stand for reelection next year, Gov. Laura Kelly’s got nearly four years to figure out how to pay for basic state responsibilities: schools, highways, possible expansion of Medicaid, pension, roads… She needs revenue to pay for all the things Kansans want and need from their government.

And next after that?

It’ll be the House and Senate trying to override the veto. The House passed the bill 76-43, and in that chamber, it takes 84 votes to override a veto. The Senate earlier passed the (un-frosted) bill 26-14, just one vote short of the 27 needed for an override.

And next after that? If it becomes law, we’ll see how House and Senate candidates tout it.

One Republican already has calculated that a 1 percent drop in the sales tax is—ready?—a 15 percent cut in the sales tax on food…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Showdown is in Full Swing

It’s still a showdown, the GOP led Legislature, and Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly, and they’re holding their cards near their chests and looking at each other’s eyes to see who blinks first.

Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver
Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver

Those $88-a-day legislators (plus per diem, of course) are still on their Turnaround Daybreak, presumably exhausted from debating many of the bills in each chamber and sending them across the rotunda to the other chamber. And they’ve sent just one bill to Kelly so far. Best deal for those legislators is that they get paid by the day—not on commission—or we’d see them at street corners with signs seeking lunch money.

That single bill they’ve sent to Kelly is the $115 million-repayment of money borrowed from the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, and Kelly isn’t saying whether she’ll sign or veto it, and it would be out of character for her to just let it become law without her signature.

The bills floating around? Well, they’re still floating at what is theoretically, or popularly, called the “halfway point” of the session. That’s the tax cut bill and the K-12 bill, which at least the Senate Education Committee hasn’t finished up yet and isn’t likely to move to floor debate this week.

The tax cuts? Kelly doesn’t think that the state has enough information on just what those federal cuts are going to do to Kansas revenues. She for the first time last week said out loud that she might not sign a tax cut bill this year.

For some number of Republicans—and mostly party leadership—those tax cuts are politically vital.

The leadership refers to making those federal tax cuts trickle down to Kansans vital. And cutting Kansas taxes now? Well, Republicans call not cutting Kansas income taxes a tax hike, because the less you pay to Washington, the more money is available for taxing by Kansas.

There are also some relatively clever little political games within the tax debate, like a one-cent reduction in Kansas sales tax on groceries, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.  Nobody doesn’t want to pay less sales tax. And no legislator doesn’t want to vote to cut taxes on nearly everything—and especially food.

While you read a lot about “helping the poor” with that food sales tax cut, the income tax part of the bill helps corporations and the upper-middle and upper-upper income Kansans who probably haven’t eaten bologna on white bread for years…

It might be interesting, though, to see how that Senate-passed, House committee-amended bill does in full House debate.

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: First and Biggest Fight

It’s going to take a few days, but the first and biggest fight of new Governor Laura Kelly and, well, apparently the entire Legislature, will break out this week.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

The bell that started the first round: Friday’s 117-0 passage by the House of the Senate’s unanimously passed on Valentine’s Day of a short little bill that sends $115 million to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System to pay back the $97 million (plus interest) that it didn’t pay in 2016.

Repaying debt…not a bad idea, except that everything is different when the Legislature is dealing with the pension fund that, while “not actuarially balanced,” is still making those monthly pension check payments to retirees.

But here’s the big fight over the very first bill passed by this year’s heavily Republican Legislature to the brand-new Democrat governor Kelly: pay KPERS now, or pay KPERS later…

Why is this so mesmerizing? Because the governor clearly lost her argument to the Legislature for her own KPERS plan. Now, she can sign the bill, reluctantly, and say she just didn’t want to waste time with a veto.

Or, she could veto the bill and get overridden. Hard to say who would want to be in that picture with her.

Or she could just put it in her desk drawer, and after 10 days it becomes law anyway with none of her DNA on it.

The governor hasn’t said what she intends to do with the bill.

There really isn’t a good choice for her, and it’s going to be interesting to see how she describes what she’s going to do with the bill.  A well-thought-out explanation is necessary, one that will make the ultimate beneficiaries of the pension program believe she’s working for their best interests.

The “pay KPERS now” side of the issue makes sense to pay back money that lawmakers borrowed from the pension fund back when the state was scrambling to keep its annual balance out of red ink. That $97 million non-payment to KPERS was needed as the state started a series of tax increases to dig out of the former Gov. Sam Brownback “lower taxes and the economy will boom, and we’ll take in more money” experiment which just didn’t work.

The “pay KPERS later” side of the issue? Well, Kelly had a different idea. Refinancing the pension fund’s actuarial shortfall (basically the amount it would need to pay off all its members in one day) over another 30 years brings smaller annual payments that the state is more likely to actually pay. Everyone gets paid, it just takes longer…and the state pays interest on that refinancing for 30 years, a long time.

***

The politics are interesting because that borrowed money is from the schools/state workers’ section of the pension fund. Democrats voted for the bill because those two categories of pensioners are often solid Democrat voters.

Republicans decry that interest the state would pay on refinancing the pension system under the Kelly plan. They’ve made a big deal out of the $24,000 per day interest the state is running up by not paying that $115 million now. They apparently pay cash for their cars and houses.

What happens next? Nobody but the governor knows. But whatever Kelly does, it is going to influence future governor-Legislature fights, and whatever happens, she’ll go into Round 2 of the prize fight a little weakened.

Dramatic, and it might tell the future. Or at least change the relationship between the governor and the Legislature.

Get your bets down…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Hawver: Veterans

Everyone wants to be helpful to injured veterans. That’s just part of being an American. Those troops, whether volunteers or drafted, deserve our respect for their service…and especially if they have been injured in their jobs.

Now, does that respect make a bill more likely to pass the Kansas Legislature? We may find out this session.

Two bills specifically refer to wounded veterans for their provisions; one would put a cap on property tax increases, another would create the “Veterans First Medical Cannabis Act,” which would legalize medical marijuana and give those wounded veterans first access (for 60 days) to that medical pot.

Will respect or deference to veterans boost the vote, maybe get the bills passed, or is special treatment of veterans a gimmick to broaden support for the bills?

Property Tax

The property tax bill? It would freeze property taxes for some Kansans 65 and older whose household income is $50,000 or less, own outright (no mortgages) homes worth $350,000 or less…and veterans with a 50% permanent disability.

Sounds like a target group that many would like to see escape ever-rising property tax bills, like everyone else in Kansas, but a group which is identifiable and for which many Kansans have empathy.

Medical Marijuana

The medical marijuana bill? It basically legalizes under an extensive, nearly exhaustive list of rules, regulations, boards and commissions the growing, prescription and use of medical marijuana.

Oh, and prescription of pot grown in Kansas for those who have medical conditions which can be alleviated by use of marijuana is for the first 60 days of the enactment of the law limited to veterans. Just veterans. After that, well, it’s a matter of what you can work out with your physician, nurse-practitioner or midwife. Yes, midwife.

No telling how this is going to work out for the legislative bills, and their beneficiaries.

The property tax lid? It is predicted to freeze property taxes for as many as 42,000 Kansas homeowners, saving them about $10 million in property taxes as their neighbors’ homes see their tax bills rising. No numbers on how many of those are veterans with a 50 percent disability.

Polling

The medical marijuana? There are polls out there that show more than 70 percent of Kansans favor legalizing medical marijuana. And, veterans have for years advocated for medical marijuana in order to help with treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related issues, supporters of the bill say.

There’s probably a fine line somewhere on just when inclusion of specific beneficiaries of a bill helps it pass or when it doesn’t. Nobody has suggested a property tax lid for, say, law enforcement officers or schoolteachers or injured construction workers or notaries.

This isn’t a group of beneficiaries likely to be used as ornaments for otherwise tough-to-pass legislation, and it isn’t likely that they have been tricked or persuaded to become the centerpiece of bills that otherwise make pretty good sense.

It just feels a little…strange. And is a veteran’s 50 percent disability the right number for some medical reason or is it a provision that most people wouldn’t question or care to argue about?

Well, that’s how the Legislature works. There are towns where a large portion of the population has either served in the military or has family or friendship ties to veterans. There are also towns where rising property taxes threaten to force some retirees to consider trading-down or moving in with their children or to a retirement facility.

We’ll see where this goes.

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com