Lobbyist spending in Topeka this year was up about 14 percent, with the Kansas Association of Realtors leading the way as it fought to keep the home mortgage deduction.
Overall, lobbyists spent $659,000 from January to April, which covers the bulk of this year’s legislative session. The 99-day session didn’t end until the middle of May.
The amount was about $80,000 more than what lobbyists spent at the Capitol during the 2011 session, which was much less ambitious.
The spending was detailed in reports filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
April was the most recent month for which lobbyist spending reports were available.
Almost a quarter of the money spent this year came from the Kansas Association of Realtors, which successfully battled Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction.
The association spent $152,296 in the first four months of this year, but only a small portion of the money went toward wining and dining lawmakers.
Most of the money spent by the organization — $89,242 — went toward a mass media campaign trying to influence the Legislature. The Realtors laid out an additional $51,406 on communications.
The association started marshaling its forces late last year when it started hearing that Brownback might want to eliminate the deduction as part of a plan to reduce state income taxes, said Luke Bell, the group’s lobbyist.
Indeed, Brownback wanted to eliminate the deduction to help offset cuts he hoped to make in the state income tax.
The association put on a full court press to keep the deduction, using automated phone calls to homeowners that would in turn connect them to lawmakers’ secretaries, Bell said.
Bell said the effort produced about 3,000 calls to lawmakers’ offices, which might explain why they were quick to put that deduction back in the law.
Other groups with an interest in cutting taxes — the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and Kansans for No Income Tax — didn’t spend nearly as much.
The chamber’s three lobbyists spent about $9,100, according to reports filed with the state ethics commission. Kansans for No Income Tax spent $19,779. Americans for Prosperity spent $4,256.
The liquor industry was another big player this session.
A group called Uncork Kansas spent $71,328. The group backed legislation allowing grocery stores to sell full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores. The bill failed.
Other notable spending contained in this year’s reports:
• Kansas Citizens for the Arts spent $3,778 successfully battling to restore state funding for the arts after it was vetoed out by Brownback last year.
• The Kansas Dental Association spent about $4,000 this year as it fought off attempts by the Legislature to create a midlevel dental provider designation to help underserved areas of the state. The association pushed another option that expanded some of the responsibilities of dental hygienists but was criticized for not going far enough.
• The Kansas Association of School Boards spent $3,612 in lobbying efforts that secured $40 million more in state base aid for schools.