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Legislature Passes Tax Plan

Associated Press - June 12, 2015 9:43 pm

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The Kansas Legislature has finished its business for the year except for a brief adjournment ceremony June 26.

Lawmakers’ annual session lasted 113 days. It was the longest in state history. The previous record was 107 days in 2002.

Deep disagreements among majority Republicans about raising taxes to erase a budget deficit kept lawmakers in session long past the 90 days traditionally scheduled by their leaders. Each extra day of session cost taxpayers a total of $40,000.

The Senate adjourned at 5:23 p.m., and the House followed about an hour later.

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6:10 p.m. CDT

Kansas legislators have passed a bill designed to give Republican Gov. Sam Brownback more discretion in making some budget cuts during the next fiscal year while protecting aid to public schools.

The Senate approved the measure on a 38-1 vote Friday, and the House approved it shortly afterward on a 102-0 vote. The measure goes next to Brownback.

Legislators approved a plan for raising taxes by $384 million to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but they said Brownback may have to trim spending up to $50 million.

Current state law allows him to make cuts but requires them to be across the board. The bill would allow targeted cuts.

But it also protects aid to public schools, the court system’s funding, the Legislature’s budget and payments for public pensions.

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4:45 p.m. CDT

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is praising Kansas legislators for passing what he calls pro-growth tax policy.

The governor issued a statement Friday minutes after the Senate voted 21-19 to approve a bill raising the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House approved it earlier Friday.

The measure and a companion bill also going to Brownback would raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. It would avert a budget deficit and deep spending cuts.

Brownback said: “I congratulate them on coming together in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to do what is right for Kansas.”

But Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka accused Brownback of using fear-mongering to get Republicans to pass the bill. And Republican Sen. Jeff Longbine of Emporia likened tactics from the administration and fellow lawmakers to blackmail.

Brownback’s aides had warned about potential across-the-board spending cuts or vetoes of state university operating funds should lawmakers not approve tax increases.

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4:35 p.m. CDT

Kansas legislators have approved increases in sales and cigarette taxes to erase a budget deficit and avert deep spending cuts.

The Senate voted 21-19 Friday to approve a bill raising the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House passed it 63-45 early Friday morning, and it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The GOP-dominated Legislature also is sending Brownback a companion bill to increase the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The House passed it 63-44 early Friday, after the Senate’s approval Sunday.

The two bills together raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to balance the budget.

The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy.

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3:05 p.m. CDT

The Kansas Senate is debating a bill that would raise the state’s sales tax to help erase a budget shortfall.

Republican leaders in the GOP-dominated chamber didn’t know going into Friday’s debate whether they had the 21 votes in the 40-member chamber to pass it.

The bill would increase the sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. It and a companion measure already approved by the Senate together would raise $384 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Lawmakers have approved a budget for the next fiscal year, but it doesn’t balance without the tax increases. The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging to help stimulate the economy.

The other bill would increase the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. Both chambers have approved it, but the House was using a procedural move to keep it from going to Brownback until it saw what the Senate did with the first measure.

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2:30 p.m. CDT

A plan for raising taxes to erase a budget shortfall in Kansas could have trouble passing the Kansas Senate because it doesn’t drop the sale tax rate on food.

Republican Sen. Michael O’Donnell said Friday that he doesn’t intend to vote for a bill increasing the sales tax on all products to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent.

He told reporters that he opposes the measure because House and Senate negotiators who drafted it dropped a Senate-backed proposal to decrease the sales tax on food to 4.95 percent in July 2016.

The Senate was debating the measure Friday. The House passed it early Friday morning, 63-45.

The bill and a companion measure already passed by the Senate would raise $384 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 to avert a deficit in a budget lawmakers already have passed.

The second bill also would raise the state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack, to $1.29.

The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy.

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12:20 p.m. CDT

A tax plan aimed at closing Kansas’ budget shortfall faces an uncertain vote in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Steve Abrams from Arkansas City said the plan is “far less appealing,” without provisions initiating a study of sales tax exemptions and repealed many of them in 2020 if lawmakers do not intervene.

The two bills under consideration would raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Senate was expected to vote Friday on a bill increasing the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House approved it early Friday morning, 63-44.

An earlier version of the tax plan set up a special commission to study sales tax exemptions. But in negotiations between the two chambers, House members insisted on dropping the idea and the repeal of exemptions.

Senate tax committee Chairman and Wichita Republican Les Donovan worried that the Senate would reject the tax plan.

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5:30 a.m. CDT

The Kansas Senate will determine whether a plan for raising sales and cigarette taxes to erase a budget deficit will clear the Republican-dominated Legislature and go to GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

Two bills contained parts of the tax plan. The measures together would raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Senate was expected to vote Friday on a bill increasing the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House approved it early Friday morning, 63-44.

The Senate approved the other part of the package Sunday. It is a bill raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29. The measure also includes a modest tax increase for business owners.

The House approved the bill early Friday, 63-45. But House GOP leaders used a procedural maneuver to block the bill from going to Brownback until they saw how the Senate voted on the other measure.

The state’s budget gap arose after the Republican-dominated Legislature slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy.

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Eliminating sales tax exemptions could be a key issue when the Senate considers a plan for balancing the state budget.

The Senate was expected to vote Friday morning on a bill increasing the state’s sales to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The House approved it early Friday morning, 63-44.

It’s part of a larger plan to raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. A second bill would increase the state’s cigarette tax.

Some Republican senators pushed to create a commission to study eliminating sales tax exemptions. They favored a plan to repeal most exemptions in 2020 unless lawmakers moved to preserve them.

But House and Senate negotiators dropped provisions creating the commission and the repeal of the exemptions in 2020 from the final version of the bill.

Legislators still could consider repealing sales tax exemptions on their own. But lead Senate tax negotiator and Wichita Republican Les Donovan said the proposals were important to some GOP senators.

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4:10 a.m. CDT

The Kansas House has approved the second part of plan for raising taxes to help erase a budget deficit.

The vote early Friday morning was 63-45. The measure before the House included a cigarette tax increase of 50 cents a pack to $1.29 and a modest increase in taxes for business owners.

The Senate approved the measure Sunday, but House Republican leaders were using a procedural maneuver to keep it from going to GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. They wanted to see how the Senate would vote on the first part of the tax package.

The House approved the first part, 63-44. It would raise the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent.

The two bills together raise $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The state’s budget gap arose after the Republican-dominated Legislature slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy.

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1:50 a.m. CDT

The Kansas House has approved the first part of a new plan for raising sales and cigarette taxes to help erase a budget shortfall and avoid deep spending cuts.

The House voted 63-44 for a bill that increases the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The measure goes next to the Senate.

The House immediately began debating a second bill that would increase the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack to $1.29.

A similar plan that contained both tax increases failed by a wide margin in the House early Thursday. But Gov. Sam Brownback later publicly pleaded with GOP lawmakers to pass tax increases.

Republicans who drafted the latest plan anticipate that Brownback still would have to cut up to $50 million from a budget lawmakers already have approved. The Kansas Constitution requires a balanced budget.

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1:30 a.m. CDT

The Kansas House is debating a new plan drafted by Republican members for raising sales and cigarette taxes to help erase a budget deficit and avoid deep spending cuts.

The plan is contained in two bills that were before the House early Friday morning. Republican leaders hoped to vote on both, but that depended on whether the first measure passed.

The first bill increases the state’s sales tax to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The second bill raises the cigarette tax of 50 cents a pack to $1.29. A similar plan failed by a wide margin in the House early Thursday.

The two bills together would raise about $384 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1. Republicans who drafted the plan anticipate that GOP Gov. Sam Brownback still would have to cut up to $50 million from a budget lawmakers already have approved. The Kansas Constitution requires a balanced budget.

The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers slashed income taxes at Brownback’s urging.

 

Larry Elmquist

June 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm

The legislature caused this funding problem by blindly following the Pied Piper from Parker, Kansas off the cliff of fiscal responsibility. Now they have barely cobbled together a patchwork quilt that still require 50 million in discretionary cuts. However, the legislature’s budget is to be held unscathed. You talk about public servants with a lot of brass!

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