Budget will dominate 2009 legislative session
The 2008 Kansas legislative session will long be remembered for the political dogfight over coal-fired power plants in western Kansas.
Those same power plants will likely be a key topic of debate in the 2009 session, which began Jan. 12. But the state's economy--like that of the nation as a whole--has slipped into a recession. Thus, a tight state budget and the challenges that go along with that will be the centerpiece of the 2009 session, according to Dana Peterson, producer policy specialist for Kansas Wheat.
"With the tight budget situation and tight economics going into the state legislature, there will be attempts to increase fees that apply to farmers in the operations of irrigation equipment and fertilizer applications. We do know there will also be attempts to look at all tax exemptions the state gives including those that are given to farmers. We will closely monitor those two items," Peterson said.
Another topic of interest to wheat farmers is the Kansas Bioscience Authority. Currently, Kansas Wheat has plans to submit a proposal to the KBA that would develop the Plant Innovations Center in Manhattan. The Center--a collaborative effort between Kansas Wheat, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas and numerous private companies--will bring about a host of new plant breeding technologies.
Formed in 2004, the Kansas Bioscience Authority has amassed more than $580 million to invest in existing and startup bioscience-based businesses in Kansas. The KBA's hefty balance sheet could be a target for some legislators, in light of the state's own economic woes.
"With that money, the legislature may attempt to sweep those accounts to use with other state general funds items. We'll be making sure that situation stays strong as we approach the Plant Innovations Center proposal to that organization the first part of February," Peterson explained.
Water and transportation issues also will bear watching as the legislature reviews all expenses, Peterson added. Among them:
--The Special Committee on Eminent Doman and the Condemnation of Water Rights will bring legislation forward that clarifies existing water law.
--The Special Committee on a New Comprehensive Transportation Plan will have recommendations on state and federal funding of the state's highway infrastructure.
Peterson suggested farmers can keep up-to-date on the Kansas legislature by logging onto the Kansas Legislature's official Web site: www.kslegislature.org and check the "Current Happenings" tab. From here, viewers can see the weekly calendars for the House, Senate and various committees. Or, contact Kansas Wheat for a quick update on issues that pertain to wheat farmers.
"Producer associations like the KAWG monitor the issues going on in the legislature. We have developed good relationships with the committees. If any farmer has a specific interest or item they'd like to know about, call the Kansas Wheat office and we'll look that information up and get the information you want," Peterson said.