By Amelia Arvesen
KU Statehouse Wire Service
TOPEKA — Kansas could become one of the first states to implement a new tax-free savings program that would allow people with disabilities to save more for their futures.
In Tuesday’s House Children and Seniors Committee meeting, Kansas representatives advanced House Bill 2100 to the floor.
The bill cites the federal ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act, signed by President Barack Obama in December. People who become disabled before the age of 26 can save for college while still receiving federal aid.
Rep. Erin Davis (R-Olathe) said supporters will lobby in the coming months to get the bill passed.
“It’s providing the disabled to be somewhat self-sufficient and have some savings for things that insurance or Medicaid or Social Security Disability doesn’t cover: housing, transportation, education, in addition to medical needs,” Davis said. “It’s providing some independence for them.”
Current legislation allows individuals with disabilities to save $2,000 a year but HB 2100 would hike that amount to a $14,000 yearly limit. Savings in the accounts would not count toward Medicaid eligibility, and any amount under $100,000 would be excluded for Social Security disability eligibility, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Rep. Willie Dove (R-Bonner Springs), who serves as vice chair of the committee, said a disability does not disqualify a person from making rational decisions, including whether to attend college.
“One of the things that I have seen personally is that individuals who need the extra care before they get to the point where they have assistance offered to them, it’s not enough,” Dove said. “A lot of these individuals want to make decisions on their own.”
Davis said because no other state has participated in the program, the true fiscal impact is still unknown. She said regardless of the fiscal impact, the tradeoff is great because it provides people a means to care for themselves.
The bill garnered no opposition in a hearing last week, where U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, (R-Overland Park) provided testimony in favor of the bill.
It will be sent to the Speaker’s office who will determine whether it will be voted on.
Amelia Arvesen is a University of Kansas senior from San Ramon, California, majoring in journalism.