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RAHJES REPORT: January 23, 2023


State Representative Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, 110th Dist. File Photo/Hays Post

The Rahjes reportJanuary 23, 2023

Hello from Topeka.

We’re already into Week 3 of the 2023 Kansas legislative session. It’s been slow, mostly with bill introductions and overviews in committee meetings.

Once again I am chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Higher Education Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The Governor delivers State of the State this week, as it was delayed by possible illness a couple of weeks ago when it was originally scheduled. We’ve already received his budget, so this state-of-the-state presentation will be one of the lines of applause and general ideas with the budget serving as the roadmap that we’ll start when we produce the next budget.

Here are some of the highlights from the Governor’s budget:

Back to school tax exemption – This idea is also nothing new; In 2015, House Republicans introduced House Bill 2076, which would have created a weekend sales tax exemption for back-to-school purchases. At the time, Democrats and the Kansas School Boards Association opposed the bill because it would “decrease state revenues.” House Republicans is committed to helping Kansas families, especially low-income families, save money as they prepare to send their children back to school and to help local businesses sell more merchandise, which is why we have consistently supported this kind of low taxes policies. A 4-day back-to-school tax holiday has been proposed. Only a list of items will be subject to this tax exemption. The estimated tax relief is $5.5 million.

Social Security income tax relief – While House Republicans are pleased to see the Governor finally acknowledging the wisdom of former Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s “Retire Tax-Free” plan, the timing of his approval of his proposal seems politically expedient, as will happen after the November election. Also, instead of providing relief to all Social Security income tax recipients as Republicans had proposed, the Governor proposed a “cliff-leveling” for only some retirees. The Governor’s Plan: Retirees who fall between $75,000 and $100,000 will see this “cliff smoothing.” Estimated tax breaks of only $20.5 million. Retire Tax-Free plan: If effective in fiscal 2023, all-income Social Security exemption is estimated to provide approximately $32.5 million in relief, $109.2 million in 2024, and $112.5 million in in 2025. Comprehensive exemption of all private retirement income would provide approximately $69.9 million in aid in 2023, $233.8 million in 2024 and $236.1 million in 2025.

Additional budget facts:

ONE TIME EXPENSES, Rainy Day Fund$500 million added to the Budget Stabilization Fund which will bring the state’s rainy day fund to $1.5 billion.

Infrastructure Leverage Fund – $220 million added to the Infrastructure Leveraging Fund which was created by the Infrastructure Hub as a special fund to invest in infrastructure projects identified as priority.

Debt Purchase/Debt Avoidance – $53 million taken from the State General Fund (SGF) to eliminate the debt of the Kansas Water Office. Eliminate 2 remaining reservoir debt related to the Milford and Perry reservoirs. Estimated savings on interest payments of $29.4 million. $16.4 million from the State Institution Building Fund to pay cash for the new Veteran’s Home, an estimated $10 million interest payment savings, contingent on VA’s allocation of federal funds.

KanCare program – SGF $1.5M to raise fees for Focused Case Management SGF $7.1M to standardize key reimbursement rates through waivers. Examples include: raising service fees for brain injury, physical disabilities, autism, and technology-assisted exemptions to match the fees for the frail elderly exemption. Eliminating service rate disparity between waivers, SGF $3.7M to increase rates for brain injury facilities, SGF $5.1M to increase placement rates for kin and non-kin foster homes

K-12 education – K-12 funding for FY24 and FY25, $3 million from SGF to expand Mental Health Intervention Team Pilot (expand to 15-25 districts), $5.0 million from SGF for Safe and Secure grants. $50,000 in partial annual funding in FY 23 and $273,000 in FY 24 from the State General Fund for 2 full-time equivalent education resource officers for the blind school and 2 full-time equivalent education resource officers for the school of the deaf. $72.4 million each of the next 5 years for special education to bring all school districts to 92% by FY28.

High school education – SGF $107.9 million to keep tuition increases low. $65.9 million broken down as follows: $20 million to expand financial aid to state public universities, $21.8 million to mitigate the impact of inflation, $10.6 million for university-specific programs, $8 million for the implementation of the National Institute of Student Success Academic Playbooks, $42 million in one-time expenses broken down as follows: $20 million for deferred maintenance, with a dollar-for-dollar match requirement, $12 million for IT and cybersecurity upgrades, $ 10 million for demolition

Workforce development – SGF $4 million to the Board of Regent for the micro-internship program. Fund for Economic Development Initiatives (EDIF): . $3M EDIF for Department of Commerce Marketing, $500,000 EDIF for Office of Registered Apprenticeship, $1M EDIF for Early Childhood Education and Care, $2.5M SGF for Pilot of Child Care Facilities, $20 Million SGF for Housing Revolving Loan Program-Kansas Housing Resources Corporation

State employees – 5% salary adjustment statewide (excluding Judiciary Branch, KSB and KSSD teachers, elected officials and agencies with approved career progression plan).

Computer and information security – Total of $41.6 million in FY23 and FY24.

These are just a few of the highlights contained in the Governor’s budget and I’m sure there will be additions and subtraction as the session progresses.

You can follow legislature events online at kslegislature.org, and when the House and Senate are in the floor or in committee you can see it all on the Kansas Legislature YouTube channel.

I moved offices and am now located at 186-W, which is the northwest corner of the capital. Again this year my assistant is Terry Benitis. If you want to contact me, the email is: [email protected]phone during session 785-296-7463 or you can always try my cell phone number at 785-302-8416.

If you have a young person who would like to come and spend the day as a legislative page please let me know as soon as possible and we will work out what is a good day for that to happen.

Thanks for reading. It is an honor for me to serve you.

Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, is the Kansas State Representative of the 110th Dist. which includes:

* Norton and Phillips Counties * Ellis County: Cities: Catharine, Ellis and Schoenchen; Towns: Big Creek (part), Buckeye, Catherine, Ellis, Herzog (part), Lookout (part), and Wheatland (part) Graham County: City: Hill City; Municipalities: Hill City (part) and Nicodemus (part)* Rooks County: Cities: Damar, Palco, Plainville, Stockton, Woodston and Zurich; Townships: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (part), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12

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