Kansas lawmakers delayed a vote until at least Monday on a sales tax increase that would sustain education and social services spending for a newly passed $13.6 billion state budget.
A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans pushed the budget through the House on Saturday after a nearly overnight debate.
But lawmakers decided late Saturday to adjourn until Monday, postponing debate on roughly $300 million in tax hikes needed to pay for the budget plan.
The House approved the budget plan 71-52 Saturday afternoon and sent the bill to the Senate. Senate approval would send the bill to Gov. Mark Parkinson, who supports it. The plan covers the fiscal year that begins July 1.
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Members of the coalition said it was important not to rush the process.
"We were here last night till 4 in the morning and we spent about 15 hours on the floor," said Assistant Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita.
"That is not the way to make these kinds of important decisions. The bills we are passing will have significant impact on Kansans. In order to try and get the best product possible, we are going to come back Monday and do it right.
"What they will remember is how we did for schools, how did we do for the disabled, how did we do to keep our neighborhoods safe. So getting it right is the most important."
But conservatives blamed the coalition for dragging out the session, now in its 86th day. They speculated that the coalition may be crumbling and the votes for a tax increase missing.
"We are being held hostage by the tax-and-spend coalition," said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, chairman of the House Budget Committee. "Either they have the votes or not."
It was the 11th day of the wrap-up session and the coalition refused to even debate taxes, he said.
The greatest remaining obstacle to ending the 2010 session is agreement between the House and Senate on the budget and the tax increase to fund it.
The Senate has passed a tax bill that would raise $314 million through a three-year, 1-cent state sales tax increase. The tax rate would rise to 6.3 percent from 5.3 percent. After three years, it would drop to 5.7 percent, with the remaining 4/10ths of a percent going to the state highway fund.
The House has yet to debate the tax bill, despite repeated attempts by conservative lawmakers to have it brought up for consideration.
The Senate, which passed its own budget proposal earlier in the week, spent much of Saturday idle, waiting for progress in the House.
Diane Gjerstad, lobbyist for the Wichita school district, said the budget the House passed Saturday means schools would receive the same funding as they did this school year, but that doesn't mean districts won't have to cut their budgets.
The cost of business for schools rises each year with increased expenses, including employee contracts, utilities, more students and inflation, she said.
"Schools will need to balance that increase with no new money," Gjerstad said.
While the budget and tax debate bogged down, lawmakers made progress on a school finance tweak sought by Johnson County lawmakers.
The House narrowly endorsed a school finance change that would alter the way schools calculate the amount they can raise through local property taxes. The state tightly restricts how much money a district can raise locally to ensure that poorer or more rural areas aren't put at a disadvantage to wealthier areas.
But lawmakers from areas with greater tax bases such as Johnson County often argue for looser rules.
The change debated Saturday would allow districts to slightly increase the amount of property taxes they can use. Johnson County lawmakers united in support of the measure, while lawmakers from other areas called the move unfair.
The bill, which passed in an initial vote of 63-59, became a bargaining chip in the larger budget fight. Many Democrats agreed to help Johnson County lawmakers in exchange for their critical support on the budget and tax package.
"This is the Johnson County candy the Democrats promised," said Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe.
Among other outstanding issues in the session is a nursing home bed assessment fee that would help the state pull in more federal matching dollars to help pay for Medicaid care.