Happy New Year! I hope you and your loved ones have enjoyed the holidays. The Kansas Legislature gaveled back into session last week in Topeka to work the will of the people. The legislative plate is especially full this year as K-12 school finance, tax reform, Medicaid, KPERS, water policy, immigration, abortion and other issues will be debated.
In his 2012 State of the State address, Governor Brownback talked on a variety of subjects but directed most of his comments towards his tax reform, school finance and Medicaid proposals. I found his comments about his tax reform proposal to be particularly interesting. He proposes to lower individual income tax rates for all Kansans by bringing the highest tax rate down from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent, lowering the bottom tax bracket to 3 percent, and eliminating the middle bracket. His plan would also eliminate individual state income tax on most small businesses. The Governor proposes to pay for the reduction in income tax revenue by eliminating various income tax credits, deductions, and exemptions and making the temporary one cent sales tax increase passed by the 2010 Legislature permanent. Given how Kansas families are struggling during these tough economic times, I think that it is extremely important that everyone pays their fair share, especially wealthy corporations and the richest individuals. As the old saying goes, “the devil’s in the details”, and as more information becomes available we’ll find out who ends up benefitting most from the Governor’s proposed tax reform and who ends up paying for it.
This could make for a very interesting legislative session. During my first eight years of service in the Legislature, a coalition of moderate Republican and Democratic legislators guided the legislative agenda in Topeka. That coalition was effectively dissolved during the November 2010 elections as Democrats lost 16 House seats to more conservative Republicans. Right now the Kansas Senate is the only remaining moderate entity in Kansas state government. Given that a slew of conservative challengers have already announced their intentions to run against moderate Republican Senate incumbents in the upcoming 2012 primaries, it will be interesting to see how those dynamics, along with our once-in-a-decade redistricting process that we’ll be undertaking this session, impact the actions and accomplishments of the 2012 Legislature.
As I did last year, I will once again be conducting town hall meetings at various locations throughout the district as we progress through the 2012 session. Notice for these events will be publicized in the near future. I hope to see you there!