Thursday, April 24, 2014

FINCH: Taking budget, tax plan to task

By BLAINE FINCH, Kansas State Representative | 6/21/2013

As I write, we are headed toward the ceremonial and formal end of the 2013 legislative session. I wanted to take a moment to give you my thoughts on the end of the session and some of the major issues we voted on as the session went down to the wire. But first I want to thank each of you for the honor and opportunity to serve you as your representative.

The two largest pieces of legislation that we deal with each year are the budget and the tax plan. We are required by the Kansas constitution to do one thing each session, and that is to pass a budget. I voted no on the budget this year for a number of reasons. First, the budget called for deep and unwise cuts to our corrections system. The governor has since vetoed the second year of cuts to corrections, but the first-year cuts will leave us with fewer probation and parole officers, and that means less supervision of offenders. Ultimately, it means less safety for each of us and our families.

As I write, we are headed toward the ceremonial and formal end of the 2013 legislative session. I wanted to take a moment to give you my thoughts on the end of the session and some of the major issues we voted on as the session went down to the wire. But first I want to thank each of you for the honor and opportunity to serve you as your representative.

The two largest pieces of legislation that we deal with each year are the budget and the tax plan. We are required by the Kansas constitution to do one thing each session, and that is to pass a budget. I voted no on the budget this year for a number of reasons. First, the budget called for deep and unwise cuts to our corrections system. The governor has since vetoed the second year of cuts to corrections, but the first-year cuts will leave us with fewer probation and parole officers, and that means less supervision of offenders. Ultimately, it means less safety for each of us and our families.

The budget also made across-the-board cuts to higher education. I am for finding ways to increase efficiencies and reduce waste, but across-the-board cuts do not do that. We need to make smart cuts while we continue to invest in those parts of our community colleges and universities that help our young people become productive citizens and compete globally.

Finally, this budget swept money away from early childhood education programs and did not carve out the developmentally disabled from KanCare. The early childhood funds were part of the tobacco settlement moneys and were to be set aside for children’s issues. This budget does not honor that commitment. And the I/DD community was only supposed to be included in KanCare after successful completion of the pilot programs. Those programs were delayed and have exposed some significant problems in using managed care for our most vulnerable neighbors. I could not support pushing them into managed care without proper study.

Every columnist and most of my legislative friends have taken a stab at explaining the tax plan. I won’t rehash all the details but I will tell you what I liked and didn’t like. I did not like that we were not keeping the promise we made to lower sales tax to 5.7 percent on July 1 of this year. I think we should keep those promises we make about temporary tax increases. I also didn’t like that we were continuing to cut income tax rates without requiring proof that doing so already has or will bring more jobs and businesses to the state. That brings me to what I did like ... After 2019, we will stop cutting income tax rates on a set schedule and start using growth to trigger buy downs of the income tax rates. I think those triggers are too narrow, but it is the better way to cut tax rates. Ultimately, the negatives outweighed the positives, and I voted no on the tax plan.

On a personal note, it has been a joy to work on your behalf in the Legislature. I have learned a great deal and been privileged to work with some great people. Every day I tried to work hard for our district and its people and do what I thought best. And that is what I will continue to do. Even though we are out of session until next January, I will continue to work to listen to your concerns, seek your advice and study potential solutions to the issues that will come up next session. If you have questions or need any help on something relating to state government, call me at (785) 242-6400 or email blainefinch@gmail.com

Blaine Finch is a Kansas House member, representing Franklin County.

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