Salina’s four area representatives were on hand Saturday at the Chamber’s Annex to present an update on the 2019 Legislative Session in Topeka.
About 40 people braved a cold, rainy morning to jot down questions for State Senator Randall Hardy and State Representatives, Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks and J.R. Claeys to respond to during the 90-minute meeting.
Topics ranged from expanding Medicaid, to lowering sales tax on food items, education, state budget and the retention of the workforce around the state to help grow the aviation and tech industries.
Democratic Governor, Laura Kelly has been pushing for expanding the Obama era legislation since hitting the campaign trail in 2018, a move that is supported by State Senator Randall Hardy, 24th District. “I think it is important to get it done and I want to push for it as hard as I can,” he said.
Past legislative bodies have dubbed the program too costly, while Representative Diana Dierks, 71st District said she counts solving healthcare as a priority. “It’s one of my biggest endeavors along with education. It has to happen,” she said.
Internet Sales Tax
With a growing need to find additional revenue streams to bolster the Kansas budget, legislators look poised this session to adopt an internet sales tax that is based on the destination.
Representative Steven Johnson, District 108 explained the move is aimed at leveling the playing field for brick and mortar stores to compete with most online companies who don’t pay the tax. “It is much easier this year to set it up because of the Supreme Court case that North Dakota won,” he said.
“I expect that we will figure it out and begin collecting in July if we can figure it out in the next few weeks, or in October if it is later in the session.”
Revenue officials project the measure would pull in anywhere from $30 to $50 million dollars in taxes annually to add to the state coffers.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have applauded the measure with the hope that the additional monies collected could help end the 6.5 percent sales tax Kansas collects on food purchases.
During the session, Representative J.R. Claeys, 69th District updated the audience on how committees are working on laying the groundwork to retain more college graduates in the aviation sector.
According to Claeys, since 2005, Kansas has lost about 18-percent of aviation based jobs – not to Mexico or China, but to states like Oklahoma and North Carolina. Representative Claeys added a plan to incentivize employers would help turn the tide.
The proposal would give aviation related shops a tax break on paying back the loans on the graduates they hire from Kansas universities. “The employer is getting the benefit of the workforce,” he said. “And the workers have an incentive to stay in Kansas.”
Legislators will be back in Salina for their second update on Saturday, March 16th while the third and final update is scheduled in May at the Chamber. The event was moderated by Joyce Volk.