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Our Voice in Topeka

Representative, District 10

The veto session is a start-and-stop operation. We wait on conference negotiation reports between the House and Senate — trying to hammer out our differences — and then we consider them one by one in the House chamber.

We worked all week, and Friday’s efforts ended at 4 a.m. Saturday; then we took up our work again Saturday and adjourned at 10 p.m. We hoped we could wrap up the session Saturday night, but did not.

Early Sunday morning, the House passed an alternative budget that will fund schools at the same level as the 2009-10 school year. You might recall the House Appropriations budget had proposed to under-fund schools to the tune of $86 million (initially by $172 million), and it would have let schools raise the rest of their own money to fill that hole.

For Hillsboro and Marion, that would have likely required a property tax increase of more than 10 mills. Chase County, Centre, Flint Hills, and Peabody-Burns would have seen a substantial property tax increase, as well, possibly even higher for some.

One or more of the school districts still might face a small increase even with the passing of the alternative budget, but the proposition of funding our schools all with a property tax increase was simply not acceptable to me, and based on the survey I took, it was not OK with you, either.

The Senate passed the alternative budget at 5 p.m. Monday.

The alternative budget restores the Medicaid cuts to nursing homes that the Governor had to make this past winter; we also make up the concept of a “bed tax” bill before we adjourn. This is a rather curious concept yet shouldn’t end up raising room rates for nursing homes in the 70th District, whether a person receives Medicaid or the person pays his or her own nursing home bill.

The bill changes the federal matching funds for Medicaid and is likely to save Kansas substantial money. As I set up community meetings this spring and summer, we can talk more about this one, when we know if it passes or not.

This bill is designed to substantially decrease the “funny money” I spoke of in last week’s column.

Both the Senate budget proposal and the House alternative budget rely on the passage of a 1 percent sales tax increase. The Senate has passed a tax bill to do just that, and the House has not agreed to it yet, but I expect that could be taken up and passed this evening. (The House did pass the sales tax Monday evening.)

A number of us advocated strongly for the cigarette and beer-alcohol portion so we could lower the sales tax a bit, but the Senate could not get either of those proposals through its chamber. Hence, the increase is likely to be the sales tax as many of you also suggested in the survey, if we pass it.

I still think that beats raising your property taxes — it is broader than property taxes.

You also need to know the sales tax bill has a more generous food sales tax refund for folks with low income. It is designed to take the tax increase into account and increase refunds.

Other issues that may be resolved before we adjourn are a new transportation plan designed to keep our state roads in their good condition (opposed by the Kansas Chamber, but advocated by community leaders in Hillsboro and Marion); a new seat belt proposal; and new legislation related to day care providers.

Since we are close to adjourning, please contact me by e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861, or call me at (620) 382-2133. They can find me, even if you need me while I’m in Topeka.

Last modified May 12, 2010

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