Kansas Chamber’s broad legislative agenda focuses on tax cuts and one-time investments

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TOPEKA – The Kansas House wants the Legislature to spend a large portion of the state budget surplus on lowering tax rates and making one-time economic investments while restricting government regulation, electricity costs and court involvement in K-12 funding decisions.

The business lobby organization opposes increased workers’ compensation benefits, the spending of taxpayers’ money on lawsuits to get more public assistance, the expanding Medicaid eligibility and reducing tax incentives for growing businesses. The Kansas Chamber is pushing for workforce development through apprenticeship programs and K-12 education upgrades in computer science.

The 2022 legislative agenda is a comprehensive plan that spans nine policy areas associated with strengthening Kansas’ economy by removing barriers to business expansion and job growth, said Alan Cobb, president. and CEO of the Kansas Chamber. The annual agenda was released last week at the start of the 2022 legislative session, which resumes Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebrations on Monday.

“As more job creators recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, so will their employees, their communities and our great state,” Cobb said. “However, Kansas cannot continue its progress in improving its business climate without a vision guided by innovation and the competitive nature of the free market and private sector.”

The Kansas Chamber has members scattered across the state in all types of industries. Half of the members of the organization have 100 employees or less. There’s a sense Kansas is struggling with labor quality and quantity as well as supply chain issues as well as inflationary pressures, Cobb said.

Cobb and Eric Stafford, the Kansas Chamber’s top lobbyist on Capitol Hill, said on the Kansas Reflector podcast that part of the state’s $2.9 billion surplus generated by federal spending and businesses that surviving the COVID-19 pandemic should aim to reduce the burden of sales, income and property taxes in Kansas.

“All of the above should be on the table for consideration,” he said. “Use those dollars effectively and responsibly. But let’s look at some tax revenue adjustments.

Governor Laura Kelly, who is seeking re-election in 2022, is urging the Kansas Legislature to eliminate the state’s 6.5% sales tax on grocery purchases, while also offering a one-time tax rebate of $450 million to be shared by approximately 1.2 million Kansans. who filed taxes in 2021. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

It’s an election year with all 125 Kansas House seats up for grabs as well as all six state offices. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly has proposed the elimination of the 6.5% sales tax on groceries and a cash rebate that would collectively eat up $1 billion of excess cash. The Kansas Chamber would prefer a reduction in the general sales tax rate. Other political figures in the statehouse contributed to the avalanche of recommendations for tax adjustments.

The Legislature is likely to consider a bill that would move Kansas from three income tax brackets to a single rate. It is possible to link the progressive reductions to the growth of state tax revenues.

“If you look at our rates, relative to our particular region, the corporate tax rate is high,” Cobb said. “Personal income tax rates are high.”

Almost a decade ago, then governor. Sam Brownback signed an aggressive state income tax cut into law. His vision was to eventually eliminate income tax collections in Kansas by shifting the burden to sales and property taxes. Massive losses in state revenue were not matched by equivalent cuts in state spending or growth in tax revenues through business expansion, and the result was years of economic distress.

Otherwise, the Kansas House said, federal economic aid should be channeled into one-time investments, perhaps the state’s retirement system, to avoid passing programs that require ongoing state appropriations.

The Kansas Chamber approved maintaining or expanding a series of business tax incentives and recommended expanding small business development loans for start-ups through private banks rather than of State.

Cobb said the state would reap economic benefits by improving the technical skills of its workforce through an investment in a new tax credit for employers who participated in a registered apprenticeship program. Kansas lags behind Oklahoma and Nebraska in supporting this kind of on-the-job workforce development, he said.

The Kansas Chamber would also appreciate support through K-12 schools for workplace learning opportunities and improved computer science courses. The organization also believes that the state’s education system should repeal restrictions on teacher certification, promote school choice, and propose a constitutional amendment declaring that the legislature is the “exclusive authority” – not the courts – to assess the fairness and adequacy of school funding.

In terms of legal reform, the Kansas House has urged lawmakers to require disclosure of third-party funding of lawsuits.

“There are hedge funds that finance litigation in our country, and they make money from litigation,” Stafford said. “And all we’re asking is that it be disclosed to the defense that there is a third party in the case who has a financial interest in the case.”

The Kansas Chamber also supports greater access to telemedicine to expand health care services and reduce costs for individuals and employers. Additionally, the Kansas Chamber said it is time for the state to remove government restrictions on the ability of medical professionals to perform their duties within their scope of practice.

“Expanding access to healthcare by providing increased flexibility to frontline providers and treatment is a top priority for the Kansas business community, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect operations and labor,” Cobb said.

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