Legislative Update: All Eyes on State’s Budget

Terry Humphrey

Terry Humphrey

By Terry Humphrey, Executive Director

The state’s budget deficit continued to be the main topic of discussion at the capitol as lawmakers returned to Topeka on Monday for the start of the 2016 legislative session. The state is facing a projected $175 – $190 million shortfall over the next 18 months.

Gov. Brownback has said he will not revisit the 2012 income tax cuts that many believe are the main cause of the revenue shortfall. In fact, he didn’t even mention the budget in his state of the state address on Tuesday. On Wednesday Budget Director Sullivan outlined the Governor’s proposals to patch the budget hole, which included selling assets of the Kansas Biosciences Authority for $25 million, diverting $25 million more from the highway fund (KDOT) and applying some unexpected savings. Whether these proposals and others will be sufficient remains to be seen.

Also on the horizon is the Supreme Court’s decision on the school funding issue, which could potentially deepen the budget hole. The wrangling over the budget is further complicated by the fact that 2016 is an election year and all House and Senate seats are up for election. It should be another interesting year.

Tax Committee Report

As I’ve reported in previous newsletters, AIA Kansas has been closely following the Special Committee on Taxation, which met for the final time last month. The committee is charged with reviewing tax policy, including current tax exemptions and credits. Several items on their agenda are of particular significance to our members: the sales tax on professional services, the sales tax exemption on building construction materials, and the historic tax credit program.

The committee recently released a draft of its final report to the House and Senate tax committees. The report recommends that the committees develop an “evaluation and sunset process” and “implement a sunset schedule for current and future tax exemptions.” The report is scheduled to be approved by January 19.

While it is unlikely that any changes to tax policy will be enacted during an election year, anything is possible. AIA Kansas needs to continue to advocate for a tax policy that supports economic development and jobs. A tax on professional services will simply make Kansas uncompetitive in a global market. There is no time like the present for architects to familiarize their legislators with the value their services add to the communities across Kansas. Which leads me to the Capitol Architects program…

2016 Capitol Architects Program

Most legislators know very little about the role of architects in their communities. They don’t realize your work creates jobs and economic growth—unless you tell them. To help lawmakers better understand your important role in the state’s economy, last year AIA Kansas launched the Capitol Architects program. The program is designed to build relationships with legislators and familiarize them with AIA Kansas.

If you would like to participate in the program, we will begin by scheduling an appointment in Topeka with the legislator(s) in your district. I will be pleased to accompany you on this introductory meeting and help familiarize you with the process. Our goal is to let your legislators know that you are not just a constituent but a knowledgeable resource that he or she can turn to on issues related to your profession.

This program will require you to travel to Topeka. If you are interested, please email me at terry@aiaks.org. Look at your calendar and select two or three possible meeting dates between now and April 1. Based on your availability, I will set the appointments and create the talking points.   If you have questions about the program, please call my cell at 785-221-8215. I look forward to seeing you at the capitol!

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