Kansas lawmakers face 'horrifically' big issues in 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. - There are a myriad of hot-button issues facing the Kansas legislature this year.

A state capitol insider even called the problems lawmakers face in 2013 as "horrifically" large.

The biggest will be the economy.

Most of the 2013 legislative session will focus on the revenue shortfalls as a result of Gov. Sam Brownback's income tax cuts signed into law in 2012.

It is a self-inflicted budget shortfall that is tied to the massive income tax cuts enacted in May in hopes of stimulating the economy.

The cuts took effect at the beginning of January.

Now the Governor and lawmakers will have to be creative in finding ways to make up for the decrease in revenue and bring a bigger tax base to the state of Kansas.

Brownback has said the best way to stimulate the economy is to bring more families and businesses to the state.

He said the massive income tax cuts for businesses should begin attracting more people to the Sunflower State.

Republicans gained a majority in the statehouse last November, clearing the way for the Governor's conservative policy agenda.

Legislators will have to confront the projected $295 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending commitments for the fiscal year beginning in July.

Brownback has promised to protect education funding, social services and other core government programs.

Conservative lawmakers will likely be reluctant to reduce educational funding, too, after two studies commissioned by the Legislature showed Kansas education not being funded at the appropriate level. Both studies cited put the appropriate level of funding at about $6,000 per student.

Last session, lawmakers gave schools a $40 million funding boost this year. Now, the base state aid per pupil is $3,838.

Legislators have options for offsetting this year's tax cuts -- such as keeping the state sales tax at 6.3 percent rather than letting it drop to 5.7 percent in July as scheduled.

Some new legislators are open to keeping the sales tax as it is -- if the state enacts more income tax cuts -- but want to cut back elsewhere.

Another big issue will be illegal immigration.

In 2011, a measure to repeal in-state tuition for some undocumented students died in the Senate.

Lawmakers expect that proposal to be reintroduced in 2013.

Under current Kansas law, students are considered Kansas residents and eligible for in-state tuition.

Guns in schools will likely be a big issue in 2013 after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Rep. Forest Knox has said he will push a conceal and carry proposal that was unsuccessful last year.

His proposal would allow concealed-carry permit holders to take weapons into public buildings.

The Kansas legislature convenes on Monday, Jan. 14.
Brownback's State of the State address is Tuesday, Jan. 15.

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