Tax Bill

Last week, the House passed what is probably the most controversial piece of legislation it has taken up this year. Senate Bill 22 came into the House doing two basic things. It allowed individual tax filers to itemize their state return even if they took the new higher federal standard deduction. The bill also exempted from state taxation monies brought back into the United States as a result of the 2017 federal tax bill.

The House Taxation Committee added several provisions to SB 22, including a partial tax on internet sales and a lowering of the sales tax on food. On Friday, the full House passed the bill. Since it is different now, it will go back to the Senate where it will either be accepted in its new form or sent to conference committee for negotiation. The Governor has expressed her disapproval of the original bill but has not stated with certainty whether she will veto the newly expanded SB 22. The measure did not pass either chamber with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Medicaid Expansion

On Thursday, the Topeka Chamber co-sponsored a Medicaid forum at the Statehouse. “The Economic Implication of Medicaid Expansion” drew a standing room only crowd where listeners heard from Governor Kelly and business leaders from across the State as they explored the sound business case for expanding Medicaid. The Topeka Chamber has supported Medicaid Expansion for years and the issue remains on the Chamber’s short list of 2019 legislative priorities.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Health and Human Services last week held three days of discussions on the pros and cons of Medicaid Expansion. The bill which would do that sits, however, in the House Appropriations Committee, where it is not expected to advance.

Transportation Bill

The Topeka Chamber testified in support of a bill last week which would enable the secretary of transportation to utilize toll roads to fund highway projects even when the expected revenues from the toll would only partially pay for the project. Under current law, tolls are only permitted when they will fully offset the costs of a highway project. This precludes use of tolling for many projects where traffic is simply not sufficient to pay the bill. Owing to the paucity of state funds available for highway projects, such as the Polk Quincy Viaduct, the secretary is exploring any and all funding options. The Topeka Chamber was careful to note that each community, including Topeka, will need to decide for itself whether more toll roads are a good way to pay for local projects.