Danedri Thompson
[email protected]
Leading Democrats announced plans to grow the state’s economy and create thousands of new Kansas jobs last week. The Democrat caucus, comprised of Democratic members of the Kansas House and Senate, pre-filed 14 bills that legislators will introduce during the 2012 session.
“For far too long, partisan battles in Washington, D.C. have overshadowed any action to get our state economies moving again,” House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, said. “It’s time for partisan politics to take a back seat and for our state legislature to make job growth our top priority this session.”
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, Topeka, said the ‘Kansas Jobs First’ proposals will put the state’s priorities – to grow jobs — in focus.
One bill, the Hire Kansans First Act, would require any contractor or subcontractor working on state contracts valued at $100,000 or more to ensure that at least 70 percent of their workforce reside in Kansas. The percentages would be slightly altered in the Kansas City Metro Area.
There are more than 50,000 unemployed Kansas today, Hensley said. To that end, training Kansans for 21st Century jobs is another key focus of the “Kansas Jobs First” package.
“Unfortunately, too many of these unemployed Kansans are now finding it impossible to find a job, simply because there aren’t enough jobs to go around or because they may lack the skills necessary to meet the needs of today’s market,” said Hensley.
One proposal seeks to incentivize Kansans to train for 21st Century jobs. The bill would offer tax credits that mirror federal credits to students enrolled in post-secondary education courses. Officials estimate the credits would mean $3 million less in state revenue. A similar proposal would offer non-refundable tax credits to companies that sponsor apprenticeship programs.
“There’s no reason for a student to go without basic job skills because he can’t afford to pay tuition,” Davis said.
Other bills seek to protect job seekers from discrimination.
For example, one of the Demcrats’ proposals would prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from advertising a preference for an applicant to be currently employed. It would also prohibit employers from refusing to hire a person based solely upon their unemployment status or a gap in employment history. Violators would be fined up to $10,000.
Another bill would prohibit employers from denying employment based on an applicant’s credit history.
Other proposals focus on economic development. For example, one of the 14 pre-filed bills would accelerate the T-Works program putting a minimum of $50 million into various delayed road projects throughout Kansas.
Another proposal would set aside 20 percent of the Expanded Lottery Act Revenues Fund for city and county infrastructure improvements, while a third proposal would fully fund the Kansas Economic Growth Act, which helped bolster bioscience and technology in the state.
The proposed bills would lead to increased funds, according to a press release from Democratic leaders. They estimate the fiscal results would cost $11.1 million in the FY 2013 budget, but would create an injection of $15.4 million in additional revenues by FY 2015.
“‘Kansas Jobs First’ will put our priorities back in focus.  It’s the right thing for Kansas because it’s the right thing for Kansas workers,” Hensley said.