Under the Dome
Associated General Contractors
March 20, 2017
State OSHA Plan Hearing
The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing this week on a bill that would require the Kansas Department of Labor to begin working with the federal government on a plan for the state of Kansas to take over OSHA inspections. The legislature in 2015 authorized a study of the costs and pertinent details involved in the state taking over administration of the OSHA plan and enforcement.
The Associated General of Contractors of Kansas, The Union representing state employees along with the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the plan in the past. They cited evidence that work comp rates were lower in states with a state plan and that typically fines were 100% lower for business and industry. Senate Commerce Chair Julia Lynn announced the plan needs more study after the Kansas Department of Labor provided neutral testimony that wasn’t all that neutral.
The Kansas legislature this week saw its first serious movement towards balancing this year’s budget shortfall. The Senate on Thursday passed an amended version of the House recession bill. That bill primarily uses the state’s pooled money investment board money to get through FY 2017. The Senate did downgrade the borrowing authority from the House version; a move made possible by the state bringing in more than expected in February ($40M above the estimate) and requiring a smaller ending balance.
The Senate once again proved its unwillingness to consider cuts. An amendment by Senate President Susan Wagle to cut the current year budget by 2% was soundly rejected on a 7-33 vote. Subsequent attempts to then cut 1% and 0.5% also failed and by wider margins. A handful of Senators said they might have been willing to consider cuts earlier in the fiscal year, say January, but cuts now and this late in the fiscal year would cause severe hardships for schools and state agencies. However, a cuts bill was ginned up and ready to go in the Senate earlier in the session. Senate leadership cancelled that floor debate when republican senators announced their refusal to support the plan.
The House and Senate will now conference on the 2017 recession bill. Look for that Conference Committee to work out the small differences early next week and the Committee report to be adopted by both Chambers by week’s end.
Putting the recession bill to bed allows the legislature to now shift 2018-19 budget deliberations into overdrive. However, it appears likely that any votes on the two-year mega-appropriations act will be held off until the Veto Session in May. That allows for the April Consensus Revenue Estimate to be completed as well as any tax plan and school funding legislation. Remember the Supreme Court has given the legislature a June 1 deadline to complete the school finance formula.
There were multiple hearings on tax bills last week with even more to come this week. At this point the legislatures two tax chairs are allowing just about everything to be on the table. There’s hearings on different flat tax proposals, fuel tax increases, repeals of sales tax exemptions and even consideration of property tax increases. Those property tax increases are being mostly considered as school finance funding.
Here’s a list of tax hearings for next week with brief explanations.
HB 2382 – Increase the fuel tax by $0.11 per gallon.
HB 2384 – Would impose sales tax on certain services.
HB 2385 – Income tax increase, reinstates taxes on non-wage business income, etc.
HB 2395 – 5% flat income tax on income of $10K single and $20K married.
Hearings held on Property Tax Lid
The Senate Tax Committee on Thursday held a hearing on S.B. 167. Under current law, if a city or county passes a budget that requires additional property taxes compared to the previous year, with certain exceptions, then the budget must be approved by voters beginning on January 1, 2017. SB 167 would eliminate this requirement. The budget approval process and notification requirements of cities and counties would now be the same as other taxing districts.
The House Tax Committee also on Thursday held a hearing on H.B. 2376. This bill would allow a city or county to pass a budget that requires additional property taxes compared to the previous year, unless 10% of the voters sign a protest petition, in which case a vote of and by the public must take place.
WSU WATC Merger
The Senate this week passed the bill that allows for a merger between Wichita State University and the Wichita Area Technical College. The bill now heads to the House for their consideration.
This week marks the end of regular committee hearings. The legislature has all day floor sessions scheduled in both Chambers beginning Monday, March 27th. The following week is dedicated conference committee meetings and the running of those agreed to reports on the respective floors. The legislature is scheduled for First Adjournment on April 7th. They return for Veto on May 1st.
Bill Tracker Tool
AGC’s lobbying team uses an industry standard electronic bill tracking service. Once we have identified bills of interest, the service monitors any change to the legislation. While we watch the information in real time, we will attach a weekly report for the members to view.
For those interested in more detail, the legislative calendars are printed daily and include floor and committee action. Please keep in mind, they can change on a simple announcement, but they are a good starting point.
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