By State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties
Greetings from our unseasonably warm State Capitol. It has been a very busy time as we reach the first big deadline of the legislative session, turnaround day. This is the day by which most bills have to have left their house of origin and be passed over to the other chamber for consideration. This time of year sees committees trying to get their work done and long days on the House floor as bills are debated and voted upon.
One of the biggest issues that has come up in this first half of the session is House Bill 2178, a tax plan developed by members of the House Tax Committee. The bill added a third tax bracket for those making over $100,000 per year on those dollars they make after $100,000. It added back in taxes on pass through income, addressing the so-called LLC fix. It also added back in the deduction for medical expenses which had been removed in prior years. While I like the renewal of the medical expenses deduction I did not like the new tax rates and the failure to reinstate additional deductions such as home mortgage interest. The bill passed despite my voting against it.
After passage in the House, the Senate took up the bill and passed it as well. We received word on Wednesday that Governor Brownback had vetoed the bill. While I didn’t support the underlying bill I also cannot support the veto of a bill passed by a majority of the legislature when the governor has said time and time again that he is looking to the legislature to make financial decisions. I maintain my opposition to the underlying bill but our state needs its elected representatives to step up and make government work. People are tired of smoke and mirrors budget tricks that borrow money from our children to pay for operations today. People are tired of seeing the state borrow from itself, its pension system and its highway funds, and then failing to pay the note when it’s due.
With his veto Governor Brownback did not offer up an improved plan or a plan that didn’t rely on the borrowing and debt that I mentioned above. Without a structural fix, I could not support the Governor’s decision to veto, which leaves the state without a plan to solve its budgetary problems. For this reason and this reason alone I voted for the override despite my objections to the bill.
Too many politicians in Topeka want to talk about fiscal responsibility, but at the end of the day they follow along with the status quo. The truth is, taking the easy route – just going along with the Governor to get along – won’t get us out of this mess. To be sure, the votes taken by legislators on this override will be used as political rhetoric come campaign time. But, if we’re serious about getting our state on a track of fiscal responsibility, then we must move the process forward and we must have the courage to stand up to the politicians who simply want to perpetuate the state’s fiscal mess.
The Senate failed to override the Governor by three votes. With no new solutions coming from the Governor’s office, the tax and budget committees will return to the drawing board.
While budget and tax issues are complicated and have multiple moving parts I try to always remember why you sent me to Topeka: to make the best possible decision to support the least amount of government necessary to perform the basic services that our state needs. I thank you for the trust you have placed in me and I will continue to work diligently on behalf of you, our district, and our state. If you have any questions or if there is any area where I can be of help to you please do not hesitate to call or email me at 785-296-7655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.