Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.
Jan. 20, 2015
In this issue:
• 2015 session convenes
• New committee assignment
• Governor delivers Inaugural Address
• Governor delivers State of the State Message
• Democrats respond
• Budget outlined
• Kansas ranks Among the “Terrible Ten” for regressive taxes
• President Obama’s visit
2015 session convenes
The 2015 legislative session is underway. Legislators ceremoniously convened Monday, Jan. 12, and awaited the annual State of the State address on Thursday, Jan. 15. Committees continue to meet this week to review proposed legislation.
Legislators will have full plates this year, as we debate a number of important issues including education funding and the budget deficits created by the governor’s reckless economic experiment.
I welcome your input on any of these issues. Please feel free to visit or contact me at 785-296-7375, if you should have any questions. Or stop by my legislative office, located in room 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse.
Daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live.”
New committee assignment
Senate leadership created a new committee to help relieve the Judiciary committee’s workload. This committee is the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. I am serving on this committee as the ranking member. I am the only Democrat who serves on this seven-person committee. The committee meets daily at 9:30 a.m.
Governor delivers inaugural address
Gov. Brownback was sworn in for his second term on Monday and delivered his Inaugural address. While he finally recognized that the state is facing severe economic problems, he gave blame to a “crisis of the family” rather than taking responsibility for the results of his disastrous economic experiment.
There is a big difference between a “crisis of the family” and a “family in crisis.” The governor’s policies have created the latter. Gov. Brownback needs to recognize the impact his tax policy has had on average, hardworking Kansans.
Governor delivers state of the state message
On Thursday, Jan. 15, Gov. Sam Brownback delivered his fifth State of the State Address before a joint session of Senate and House members, cabinet secretaries and dozens of state dignitaries.
In his speech, Gov. Brownback outlined his 2015 legislative priorities, including:
• Overhauling the school finance formula
• Continuing on the “glide path to zero” income taxes
• Moving local elections to November
• Changes to the selection of Supreme Court justices
Unlike in his Inaugural address, the governor placed blame on the state’s self-imposed budget crisis on the “increases in K-12 spending since Fiscal Year 2014.” The reality is Brownback and his allies have cut statewide funding by nearly $442 million over the past three years.
From 2007 to 2009, the state lost $600 million due to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Last year, our state’s revenue dropped by $700 million and it is the direct result of Gov. Brownback’s disastrous “real live experiment.”
Democrats respond: The state of our state is bad
As is tradition, the minority party outlined its own legislative priorities during an official response to the State of the State. This year, the response was given by Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley.
The Kansas Legislature faces one of the most serious and significant situations the state has seen in a long time, if ever. Democrats remain committed to finding real solutions that embrace our shared Kansas values:
• Ensuring all Kansas children – regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make – receive the first class education they deserve.
• Creating good paying, quality jobs that allow Kansans to support their families. This means continuing to oppose raids of the highway funds. Studies have shown our current transportation plan will create 175,000 jobs. This is more certain that what might be created by the governor’s experiment.
• Easing the burden on low-income and middle-class families as well as those living on fixed incomes.
• Maintaining a solvent pension fund for Kansas public employees.
• Opposing further cuts to important state investments that have yet to recover from the Great Recession.
I also remain committed to being fiscally responsible and making sure everyone pays their fair share. I believe our state will prosper when we invest in the people of Kansas.
Budget revisions outlined
Gov. Brownback released his proposal for the FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget on Friday, Jan. 16. The proposal includes some very concerning components, including eliminating the school finance formula established in 1992 and replacing it with a block grant. However, very little information is provided as to how the grant would work. It is very likely, though, that would significantly increase the burden at the local level – property taxes.
I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date in the coming weeks as legislators begin to work through specific budget issues. In the meantime, to access the Governor’s Budget Report in full, visit the Kansas Division of Budget’s website at http://budget.ks.gov.
Kansas ranks 9th for regressive taxes: report
A 2015 report released by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy that evaluates fairness of state and local tax systems by measuring the taxes paid by different income groups ranked Kansas as the ninth in their list of “terrible ten” most regressive tax state. The report found that in Kansas the poorest 20 percent pay more than 11 percent of their income to taxes—three times what the top 1 percent of earners pay in taxes on their income.
President Obama’s visit
I am honored to have the opportunity to attend the speech that President Obama will be delivering at the University of Kansas on Thursday. I look forward to providing all of you with highlights of his speech in my next newsletter.