Kansas has a tradition of strong public education, with major decisions made by locally elected boards of education. Now, in the name of “efficiency and competition”, our public school system is again under attack. Last week the House Education Committee heard three bills designed to weaken funding and remove local control.

 
They were:

 HB 2486 would require state approval for any bond issue a school district wants for capital projects. I understand the need for the state to get control of this expense, but this bill is not the right mechanism.

 HB 2457 expands the program implemented last year to provide funding for private schools. The bill allows up to $12.5 million in tax credits for donations to private schools that have no standards or qualifications required of them. As first pitched as a way to allow low-income students to go to private schools, it is now clear the intent is to subsidize private and parochial schools with tax dollars.

 HB 2504 requires the forced consolidation of Kansas school districts. In counties with fewer than 10,000 students, all districts in the county would be combined into one. In counties with more than 10,000 students, districts with fewer than 1,500 students would have to combine with another district. Under the bill the State would go from 286 districts down to about 132. I oppose this bill as the savings are questionable and it would be devastating to rural communities, causing loss of jobs and local control.

 
I stand for strong public schools and will oppose these and similar measures as they are sure to arise.

As is tradition, the minority party outlined their own legislative priorities during an official response to the State of the State. This year, the Kansas Legislature faces one of the most serious and significant situations the state has ever seen. The bottom line is: Governor Brownback’s agenda has failed, and it’s time for bipartisan efforts to correct the course in which our state is headed. During the 2016 legislative session I will focus on:

 

 An economy that prioritizes attracting jobs in energy, manufacturing, research, and biosciences;

 An open, transparent government that works for the people;

 Efficient government that prioritizes public safety;

 Prioritizing public schools and retaining Kansas teachers.

 

I will also be introducing a number of “Good Government” bills this session.  Stay tuned!

After weeks of gridlock, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill containing the largest tax increase in the history of our state. Governor Brownback signed this bill into law on June 16. The new tax law:

 

  • Increases sales tax from 6.15% to 6.50% beginning July 1, 2015; combined with local sales tax rates, Kansas now has the highest sales tax rate on food in the country.
  • Eliminates and reduces itemized deductions effective tax year 2015, including the property tax and mortgage interest rate deductions.
  • Increases tobacco tax by $0.50 per pack beginning July 1, 2015.
  • Implements a new tax on e-cigarettes beginning July 1, 2016.
  • Creates a low-income exclusion provision, which eliminates income tax liability for single filers with taxable income of $5,000 or less, or joint filers with taxable income of $12,500 or less, beginning in tax year 2016.
  • Extends rural opportunity zones (ROZ) for five years.
  • Imposes property tax restrictions on local governments.
  • Delays income tax rate reductions.
  • Requires a Social Security number for a minimum of year to be eligible for tax credits.
  • Authorizes tax amnesty for penalties and interest to certain delinquent taxes.
  • Requires the Department of revenue to mail a copy of motor vehicle registration applications to owners, including all information required to register and pay by return mail.

 

I voted against this unfair tax policy because it balances the budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, and the hardworking middle class Kansans for the sake of the governor’s reckless economic experiment. The increased sales tax is especially troubling for those who live on a fixed income and already struggle to meet their daily needs. Further, these tax policies do not provide a real, long term solution to our state’s budget problems; we will only see additional budget holes to fill in the future.

Paid for by Tom Holland for Kansas Senate
Kris Marsh, Treasurer