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Under the Dome - March 12, 2013

Payroll deduction bill amended, moved out of committee

The Senate Commerce Committee this morning took action on HB 2023, the bill that as drafted would have prohibited teachers and other public employees from engaging in a wide range of political and legislative activities if they used payroll deduction to collect moneys used for such activities.

The Committee removed from HB 2023 the very broad definition of political activities and limited the restriction to advocacy on behalf of or against an identified candidate for office. If the bill were to pass in its current amended form, associations would be prohibited from using money collected via payroll deduction to promote candidates. KNEA and its affiliates could continue to lobby or promote bond issues. We could not promote candidates for the legislature, state-wide offices, or school boards unless we were to use political action committee funds raised by a method other than payroll deduction.

The bill was then amended into HB 2022, another bill dealing with payroll deduction that would allow employers to deduct from an employee's paycheck in order to recover a loan or advance, recover overpayments, compensate for the cost of employee uniforms or equipment and tools intentionally purchased by the employee.

Our analysis is taken from committee discussion and complex balloon amendments handed out in committee. We will take a closer look at the bill when it appears in amended form probably tomorrow morning.

House Education Committee begins debate on charter school law

The House Education Committee today began a review and debate on HB 2320, a new charter school bill.

The bill allows charter schools to be authorized by various governmental bodies including local school boards, city councils/commissions, county commissions, the State Board of Education, the State Board of Regents, and any public or private post-secondary institution. Current law allows only local school boards to authorize charter schools.

This 27-page bill is quite complex and is generating a lot of debate and confusion within the committee.  Among its many provisions is one allowing unlimited 100% tax credits for gifts to charter schools. This was limited by an amendment in committee to 50% tax credits for gifts of no more than $100,000 with an annual cap of $10 million in credits. Still, that's a $10 million reduction in tax revenues that could go to the state general fund to help restore funding cuts to public education.

The committee will continue working the bill later having run out of time today while in the middle of a debate on an amendment that would make those tax credits available only to corporations.

Speaking of money...

The House Appropriations Committee in their discussions on the budget and what to do about the big budget hole already created by last year's reckless income tax cuts, decided to slash about $29 million out of Regents institutions - nearly $10 million out of KU alone!

The move comes as it becomes more apparent that there is little appetite for the Governor's tax increases (he wants to permanently extend the sales tax increase and repeal income tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes paid). Somehow the state must balance the budget and if they won't pass tax increases (like those proposed by Gov. Brownback) then they must cut expenditures.

Unfortunately the cuts they are considering only hurt educational opportunity. As tuition in our Regents institutions goes up, how many low income students will be priced out of a college education? Another proposed cut eliminates state support for very low income families who make contributions to the state 529 college savings plan. While higher income individuals get a tax break on putting money in a 529, the very poor receive some matching dollars if they can manage to put something away for their children. These people now may be sacrificed for tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Kansans.

Other plans floating out there include taking money out of highway projects - the "Bank of KDOT" as it has become known under the dome.

Still, no plans to restore sanity to the Kansas tax system are in play.

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