Williams and Masterson conduct informal discussion

A small group attended the Legislative Coffee in Augusta on Saturday morning at The Point, sponsored by the Augusta and Rose Hill Chambers of Commerce.  Representative Kristey Williams (R- District 77) and Senator Ty Masterson (R- District 16) led an informal discussion on several topics.
The first issue of discussion by Williams was tax breaks and the fact that Kansas is a state that forbids disclosure of tax credits.
“The articles in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle are full of assumptions and misconceptions,” Williams said.  She did add that she is interested in more transparency related to tax credits, however.
Tax credit recipients argue that is confidential tax payer information, but with that system there is no good way of knowing if corporate tax credits actually work.
Reports from the Kansas Department of Revenue reflect that the revenue from tax credits mae up approximately one-twelfth of the state’s $6.1 billion general fund.  Some say that the policy hampers legislators’ ability in judging whether tax credits even work.
“I would like to work on producing a bill that would address more transparency for those tax credits.  That’s a area of interest to me,” Williams stated.
Priscilla All, Augusta resident and retired educator, asked about the under-funding off KPERS, which administers three statewide, defined benefit plans for public employees. Last April, Gov. Sam Brownback, delayed $92.6 million KPERS payments to deal with shortfalls in state funding.
Masterson responded “KPERS is a big issue, but it’s already set in the budget.  We had a plan to catch it all the way up.”
Both Masterson and Williams reminded everyone that under-funding KPERS started years ago and that Brownback is supportive of KPERS.
“KPERS payments were deferred because those dollars were needed elsewhere,” Williams said, “KPERS is a priority and in the forefront of legislators’ minds.”
“Neither of us voted for the tax increase,” Masterson said.
Williams explained that they both oppose giving school districts more money.  “Kansans needs to know where their tax dollars are going.  It’s the K-12 Battle.”
That opened discussion on what Masterson referred to as “the elephant in the room.”
He asked, “What will it cost you if education gets even more money?  Will you support raising income taxes?  Do you want $600 million more to go to education?  What amount is enough?”
Williams mentioned that Augusta pays each year to continue as part of the coalition of districts that sued the state, Schools for Fair Funding.
Augusta USD 402 has been a part of the coalition paying for attorney fees, lobbying, media consulting and expert witnesses, since 2010.  But many argue that the cost of pursuing the constitutional rights through the court system should be supported, and that the litigation has resulted in extra money for Kansas school districts.
Many Kansans are hoping for a bipartisan resolution in the next legislative session in January, and end the frustrating argument on school finance.

To find contact information for all state legislators, go to: www.kslegislature.org.