PITTSBURG — Concealed carry on campus, the state’s new tax bill and tuition were the main topics of discussion at Pittsburg State University’s legislative town hall Monday.
PSU hosted the town hall to discuss the impacts policy passed during the most recent session of the Kansas State Legislature on the university, its staff and the community.
PSU Director of Government and Community Relations Shawn Naccarato said the discussion in Topeka around a possible permanent exemption for public universities under the state’s concealed carry law is most likely over — or will likely not be brought up next session.
Carrying a concealed firearm on campus became legal July 1.
“We have consistently said we don’t believe more guns on campus means more safety,” Naccarato said. “But that discussion is probably over for the near future.”
Faculty members asked if a firearm peaked out from under the shirt of a student or faculty member, and was reported, if a fine or penalty would be put into effect.
PSU President Dr. Steve Scott said there is no fine. He said reports would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Open carry of a firearm is still not permitted on campus, and new signage has been placed on university buildings reflecting the new law.
Exemption from the law was given to state hospitals and mental health institutions.
Naccarato also reported on the state budget, and more specifically the tax bill passed during the last session.
“Something we’re always concerned about — but especially this year — is budget and revenue,” he said.
A rescission bill passed for fiscal year 2017 did not cut higher education in the state, however funding will remain flat for higher education in 2018 and 2019, coming in $1 million lower for PSU than slated in the state’s original budget.
Naccarato also highlighted the effects of the latest tax bill, which established three tax brackets in the state, removed the LLC Loophole and ended the march to zero on income tax. He also pointed out that income taxes were increased retroactively effective January 1, 2017.
“What we basically have is a wholesale removal of the 2012 tax plan, which is pretty historic,” Naccarato said. “You could say the experiment is over.”
Naccarato said as much as the university pursued and fought for the tax change, it came in large part because of K-12 education funding.
Another big topic was a law passed regarding state employee salary increases. Scott said the law includes a 5 percent pay increase for state employees who have worked at an institution for five or more years and have not seen a pay increase in five years, and a 2.5 percent increase for employees working for two or more years with no increase. However, if an employee has been at an institution five years or more, and seen a pay increase in the past five years, they are not eligible.
“The legislators passed this bill with really good intentions,” Scott said. “But when applied to the Kansas Board of Regents institutions, it makes absolutely no sense.”
Scott said most people working at state universities and performing well have seen a pay increase if they have been there five years, making them not eligible for a 5 percent raise. On the other hand, he said folks who have not seen a pay raise, due to poor performance, but have been working over five years will now get the mandatory 5 percent increase.
“This is what happens when you pass major legislation on the 110th or 112th day of a session,” PSU Legislative Liaison Riley Scott said. “We could have pointed out these issues in hearings and developed a better model if brought up earlier, but it was passed with good intentions.”
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.