House busy with final details
The House spent the majority of Tuesday in the House chamber deliberating the budget for the state of Kansas for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The House Appropriations Committee passed a budget to the House floor where they spent months going line-by-line through the budget and finding necessary savings to offset the tax bill from 2012.
There were many aspects of the budget that the committee as a whole either had to debate, amend or vote on. Below are some of the highlights of the House budget for FY 2014 and 2015 that was passed out of the chamber on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
The House committee actions for fiscal year 2014 decreases the governor's recommendation by $115 million from all budgets and decreases state expenditures from the State General Fund by $127.3 million. This also included a reduction of funds for the Board of Regents of $56.7 million and a possible reduction from the Department of Transportation of $358 million, which is described further in the House's tax plan.
The House committee actions for fiscal year 2015 decreases the governor's recommendation by $120 million from all funding sources and decreases expenditures from the State General Fund by $38.9 million. Also, the committee's actions in the budget bill increase receipts for the state general fund by $18.1 million for fiscal year 2015.
On Thursday, March 14, the House passed HB 2052, a bill that would establish a uniform state law addressing unlawful discharge of a firearm within or into any city. The bill would define the unlawful discharge of a firearm as the reckless discharge of any firearm within or into the corporate limits of a city and would make such a violation a misdemeanor. Additionally, the bill would provide for circumstances in which a firearm may be discharged into or within a city without being considered unlawful.
One of the circumstances for when a firearm may be discharged into or within a city without being considered unlawful would be in the case of lawful defense of a person or property. Cities would be prohibited from enacting ordinances that would penalize discharging a firearm when done in self-defense. This bill would unify the law for all Kansans, ensuring them the ability to use a firearm lawfully to defend themselves or others anywhere in the state.
On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the entire Kansas House of Representatives debated, amended and voted on the House's tax proposal. As mentioned in last week's newsletter, the tax plan allows the sales tax rate to be reduced to 5.7 percent, as stated by current law. However, with some concerns over the reduction of highway funding for the state of Kansas, we passed an amendment to reinstate the reduction in spending that was passed in the state budget. The amendment allows for 0.4 percent of the generated sales tax revenue to be directly diverted to the highway fund so the T-Works plans can be completed as scheduled.
The House tax plan will continue to reduce income tax rates over the course of the next four years through a formula that is dependent on state revenues growing by at least 2 percent each year. Anytime that the state revenue exceeds 2 percent over the previous year it will automatically trigger a reduction in the state's income tax rates. There were many amendments attempting to reinstate some of the tax credits that were eliminated in last year's tax plan, however they failed.
The House did retain the home mortgage interest and property tax deductions. The home mortgage interest deduction rates will be reduced at the same percentage as the income taxes dependent on any revenue growth that is 2 percent more than the previous year's collections. The property tax deduction will not be subject to the same calculation and will still be 100 percent deductible on state taxes.
The tax plan that has now passed the House will be discussed with the Senate during conference committee. We will see what the final budget and tax plan will be once the conference committee compromises on the plans from each chamber. Both chambers are still in line with the position of Governor Brownback by attaining a pro-growth tax solution that makes the most of our current revenue.
On Thursday, I was asked to carry an agriculture bill which would transfer the responsibility of recognizing official county fair associations to the board of county commissioners of the county where the association is located. Under current statute, that designation is performed by the Secretary of Agriculture. This bill, as amended, passed the House for final action on a voice vote. I appreciate Speaker Ray Merrick's comments in his press release: "Rep. Waymaster did a fantastic job carrying the bill today. He gave a clear explanation to the members and was well versed in the details of the bill."
Also Thursday, Rep. Sharon Schwartz and I honored the 100-year anniversary, history and achievements of U.S. Highway 36 that runs through Jewell and Smith counties of the 109th District. It was a pleasure honoring this 392-mile piece of road that stretches across the northern part of our state. We mentioned the commercial implications this highway provides for our part of the state, their annual Treasure Hunt that takes place in September and their motto that exemplifies all of Kansas: "Discover Kansas' Best, From East to West!"
Troy Waymaster, R-Luray, represents the 109th District. firstname.lastname@example.org