Opinion: Legislative update from Sen. Caryn Tyson
All of the senate work was in committees last week. It was the last week that committees meet before turnaround, the half-way point of session. There were some good, bad, and ugly results for the week.
The Senate Tax Committee passed out several bills but most notably was Senate Bill (SB) 46 that would exempt your retirement accounts from state income tax. The estimated decrease in taxes is $213 million. The opponents will argue the state cannot afford such a large tax cut. What they neglect to tell you is the state has collected $168.7 million over estimates since July 2020 (the start of Fiscal Year FY2021). In 6 months, taxes collected are above estimates by almost $170 million so Kansas can afford it – we just have to make it a priority.
The bad was some of the bills that passed out of committee or other bills that were stalled in committee. One that was stalled is SB 213 that would block employers from mandating vaccinations. The testimony during the hearing was compelling but the chairman decided not to work the bill. Because the committee is non-exempt, the bill is basically dead for the year unless it is removed from Commerce and put in an exempt committee such as Federal & State Affairs.
There are too many ugly things to write about but one that stands out is the unemployment system. Legislative Post-Audit, a non-partisan research group, reported an estimate of $600 million paid in fraudulent unemployment claims. The Governor had reported over $300 million (which is the number I had in my update last week). It is appalling that criminals are stealing the money, while Kansans who need the money cannot get it. And to make matters worse, many Kansans have had their identity stolen and are getting 1099 forms saying they owe income tax on unemployment money they never received.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.