April 7 is the first adjournment of the 2017 session. Last week saw a flurry of action and this coming week will be even wilder. Don’t expect any “final” action on school funding, the budget, or taxes before the break, because they will be waiting on the new revenue forecast due out in late April.
The big action items this week will likely be an attempt to override a gubernatorial veto and getting some preliminary bills out on critical issues. See details below.
KANCARE EXPANSION VETO
The House and Senate passed an expansion of KanCare last week and the Governor quickly vetoed it. HB 2044 would provide KanCare (Medicaid) to an estimated 150,000 poor working Kansans who fall in the “insurance donut hole”. They make too much money to get KanCare now, and don’t make enough money to qualify for subsidies on the Obamacare/ACA health care exchange. These are folks working for minimum wage or so.
One of the key features of Obamacare was the expansion of Medicaid (known as KanCare in Kansas) for low-income earners. Medicaid costs are usually shared 60%/40% by the federal government and states respectively. Under the KanCare expansion, new recipients would be covered 90% by the federal government and 10% by the states. 31 states have taken the expansion. Supporters of the expansion note that the expansion has helped keep hospitals open, provides better care, and helped the state economy. (You can read more about the issue at www.expandkancare.com.) By not doing the expansion, Kansas hospitals and clinics doing emergency care for uninsured Kansans have lost over $1.7 billion in support. That is one reason why some are closing. Opponents said the state cannot afford any additional funds at this time and are concerned about what might happen with Obamacare in the future.
Governor Brownback has consistently opposed any expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. While the bill passed by a large margin it was not a “veto-proof” majority. It takes 2/3 of legislators in both the House and Senate to override that veto It will likely be a very close vote.
If you want to get involved in the KanCare expansion issue, here is how our local legislators voted and how to contact them:
- Dist. 10: Rep. Wilson – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 44: Rep. Ballard – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 45: Rep. Sloan – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 46: Rep. Highberger – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 47: Rep. Ellis – voted no – email@example.com
- Dist. 50: Rep. Patton – voted no – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 51: Rep Highland – voted no – email@example.com
- Dist. 52: Rep. Dietrich – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 53: Rep. Gartner – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 54: Rep. Corbet – voted no – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 55: Rep. Kuether – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 56: Rep. Weigel – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 57: Rep. Alcala – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 58: Rep. Miller – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 59: Rep. Finch – voted no – email@example.com
- Dist. 1: Sen. Pyle – voted no – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 2: Sen. Francisco – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 3: Sen. Holland – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 17: Sen. Longbine – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 18: Sen. Kelly – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dist. 19: Sen. Hensley – voted yes – email@example.com
- Dist. 20: Sen. Schmidt – voted yes – firstname.lastname@example.org
BUDGET AND TAXES UPDATE
The Senate passed out a budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal years. It spends about $800 million more than the state expects to take in over the next two years. This bill does not take into account additional funding for K12 education, KanCare expansion, highway funds, or the state water plan. It does include a pay raise for state employees for the first time in a decade. It also includes a pay raise for those who provide Home and Community Based Services. It also restores funding for higher education and stabilizes the Children’s Initiative Fund for early childhood education. The House is working on its budget, expected to be debated this week.
The House tax committee passed out a tax plan this week that includes a 5% flat income tax and puts LLCs and small businesses back on the tax rolls. It raises the standard deduction that 70% of Kansas tax filers use. It raises about $850 million over the next two years. It also lowers the sales tax on food from 6.5% to 5% in 2019. There isn’t much enthusiasm for a flat tax, as it is regressive, taxing the poor more than the wealthy. This bill is expected to be debated in the House this week. The Senate has no tax bill coming out yet.
Keep in mind that all of these bills are starting points for negotiation. The final work will not be done until the May veto session and the two houses conference on the bills.