Tim Hodge is a Democrat working in a Legislature dominated by Republicans, which he says makes it hard early in the session when most of the attention is focused on committees.
"A lot of my committees are not meeting because there is nothing being pushed by the majority party and they don't want to consider any bills the Democrats introduce at this point," Hodge said.
Hodge serves on the judiciary, insurance, general government budget and financial institutions committees.
But he's not sitting still. This week he authored and offered a bill to try and reform the Kansas Income Tax. The bill, he said, would prevent what he calls a "backdoor tax increase" that no one saw coming when the federal government passed a tax reform package.
His bill does something that the federal bill does on the federal level —doubles the standard tax deduction. Hodge told the Kansan if the Kansas Legislature does not pass the bill, there will be a surprise tax increase for some Kansas taxpayers.
"Trump's tax plan all but wiped out most of our abilities to itemize our deductions," Hodge said. "That means middle-class taxpayers that itemize are going to pay for a big chunk of the hole that Sam Brownback left. I don't want that, I don't think that is right."
Hodge said that Kansas' standardized tax deduction did not change — currently at $7,500 for a married couple filing jointly.
"You may have to pay taxes on income that you did not have to pay previously," Hodge said.
The problem comes from those who will not itemize their taxes because the standard federal deduction increased — making it more advantageous to take the standard deduction rather than itemize. According to Hodge, a family that itemizes $15,000 in deductions this year, but chooses to go with the standard deduction at the federal level next year because that will be more advantageous, would pay an additional $500 in state taxes.
Hodge called it a "major oversight" by the Kansas contingent in the U.S. Legislature.
"That is where they got a tricky little tax increase on the middle class," Hodge said. "That's what I am looking out for. I'm done having the middle class paying for the problems that the super wealthy created. They bought themselves a tax decrease at the federal level and have been given a holiday in Kansas for the past five years. Now they are going to make up for the shortfall on the middle class. I am not having it."
Hodge said no one saw this — he became aware of it talking to public accountants to find out if what he was seeing was right.
His bill is being introduced in committee.
"If we don't double that deduction, then people who do not itemize will see a huge increase in their taxes," Hodge said.
And he's not done. He is currently writing a bill to reduce sales tax on food by 50 percent. He is also working on a per-child tax credit for dependents under the age of 18 and a childcare tax credit.
"I just have to figure out when to introduce them," Hodge said.