Kansas tax negotiators agree on 6 percent sales tax

02/26/2014 7:23 PM

08/08/2014 10:17 AM

The Kansas House overwhelmingly rejected a new tax plan drafted by top Senate Republicans on Friday, then went home for the holiday weekend, extending the Legislature’s session into next week.

When lawmakers return Tuesday, they will consider another plan drafted by House Republicans and agreed on by tax negotiators Friday afternoon. That plan would cut income taxes further and set the state’s sales tax at 6 percent. A Senate leader doubted it could pass both chambers.

An impasse among top GOP legislators means the session, normally scheduled to last 90 days, will be at least 95 days.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and most members of the GOP-dominated Legislature want to follow up on massive income tax cuts enacted last year with further reductions, saying it will stimulate the economy. To head off budget shortfalls, Brownback proposed keeping the sales tax at its current 6.3 percent, rather than dropping it to 5.7 percent in July, as called for by state law.

The negotiations between the two chambers resumed Friday shortly after the House rejected, 109-5, a proposal from Senate GOP leaders. That plan would have dropped the sales tax on groceries to 4.95 percent but kept it at 6.3 percent on all other items subject to the tax.

House Republicans insist their chamber won’t approve a plan with a sales tax above 6 percent. And most GOP senators contend their chamber won’t accept a plan unless the sales tax is at or close to 6.3 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said he doubts the latest plan is “the path home.” But, he said, having each chamber vote on the House GOP plan would at least give negotiators some guidance in future talks.

“Letting members have the opportunity to vote on it, that gets us closer,” he said.

The sales tax decline was scheduled when legislators boosted the tax temporarily in 2010 to balance the budget, before Brownback took office. Many House Republicans — as well as Democrats in both chambers — don’t want to break the pledge.

Democrats don’t expect to vote for any plan, though they are allowing the latest GOP plan to go forward. Democrats say last year’s income tax cuts are reckless and favor the wealthy.

Some GOP conservatives see adjusting the sales tax as a tax increase. House Republicans’ latest plan, with a 6 percent sales tax, raises a net $857 million for the state over the next five years.

But lead House tax negotiator Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, said, “We still tend to think it would pass.”

Brownback admonished lawmakers this week to wrap up their business, but spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Friday that he is “glad to see that the legislative process is moving forward.”

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