By NOAH TABORDA
TOPEKA — A Kansas Senate panel backed two bills Monday providing tax relief for everyday Kansans and teachers using their own money to fund classroom needs.
Senate Bill 519 increases the standard deduction by 25% in Kansas from $3,500 to $4,375 for an individual filing as single, $8,000 to $10,000 for married couples filing together and $6,000 to $7,500 for those filing as a head of household beginning in 2023. The Department of Revenue estimated the bill would decrease state revenue by $23.4 million in 2024, $78.4 million in 2025 and $79.1 million in 2026.
Still, some legislators echoed hesitancy expressed in opponent testimony that the committee’s time would be better spent on other, more pressing tax policies. The Legislature passed a bill last year increasing the standard deduction.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said he likes the policy but not its prioritization.
“What are the priorities for Kansas households for tax policy at this point?” said Holland, who passed on the vote. “I think there’s some debate as to how much room we have for tax policy. I want to see a food tax done, and I also want to be sure that we consider a one-time income tax rebate versus an ongoing standard deduction.”
Testimony from Kansas Action for Children argued the tax deduction was already generous to those who need it and recommended the panel focus on amending the tax bracket structure instead. Supporters of the measure countered there was more than enough room for the increased standard deduction and other tax measures.
The approved measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
“It would generate savings for a majority of families in the state of Kansas, much more than what they pay in a food sales tax,” said Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee. “I would support increasing it, but 25% is a good start in the right direction.”
A second measure receiving the panel’s stamp of approval would provide an income tax credit to any Kansas resident employed as a public or private school teacher for any expenses made for school and classroom supplies beginning in 2022. KDOR estimated that Senate Bill 520 would reduce state revenue by $20.4 million in 2023, $10.4 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in 2025.
The credit may not exceed $250, although the committee discussed the possibility of a higher cap.
Tim Graham, director of legislative and political advocacy at the Kansas National Education Association, said teachers were grateful for the bill, but he also suggested making the credit available to paraprofessionals. The amendment was not added.
“We feel like this dynamic of teachers shelling out money out of their own pockets, has been something that has gone on for far too long.” Graham said. “It’s almost become a dynamic that is expected.”
An amendment by Sen. Virgil Peck removed the refundability of the tax credit, despite objections from Democrat legislators.
“This is so minimal,” Peck said. “It’s $250, which we might have – before it gets out of the Capitol — (to) change that amount, but it seems like the refundable part is more administrative headache and heartache than what I am willing to do at this time.”