The Kansas State Legislature finished the 2013 session a couple of weeks ago and the dust is still settling. They will return to Topeka June 20 for a ceremonial closing of the session, and there are a few loose ends to tie up. Gov. Sam Brownback still has to sign some bills, including the budget, which was a major obstacle this year. He has a press conference set for today to sign the tax bill.
Harvey County legislators were happy the session was over, though not entirely happy with the result.
Rep. Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, said the legislature did some good things early on, relating to agricultural issues like dam inspections and water conservation. He also thought they did well in passing some measures that should help broadband communications.
He said he would like to have seen services for the disabled carved out of Kancare, but it could not get passed. He would also have liked to have had more funding for education and public safety.
"No budget is ever perfect, so at some point we accept it and hope to improve on it next session," he said.
Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, wrote in an email, "there are many positive things to say about this year's session work. We made necessary changes to unemployment insurance and other positive pro-business policies. We added the concept of Innovation school districts, allowing approved districts to make changes to how they operate and bringing innovation to how they educate our K-12 students. And we found efficiencies to lower our State General Fund expenditures to under $6 billion - something we haven't done for quite some time."
One of the hottest issues of the session was the tax bill and budget, which is part of the governor's plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate income tax. To pay for that the governor wanted to keep a sales tax that was set to expire this year. A compromise was reached, and only part of the tax will be reduced and it will be permanent.
State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, opposed that plan and said the promise to end the sales tax should have been kept.
She noted the plan also calls for the elimination of tax deductions and reductions in standardized deductions.
"All these tax increases, we are told, will pay for additional decreases to income tax rates and balance the budget, but that will only be possible with several more years of significant cuts to education and other core services," she said.
She voted against the plan and said the state was shifting the tax burden from the state to the local level.