TOPEKA — A key House Republican said Wednesday that the GOP is ready to release a plan to balance the 2011 Kansas budget without raising taxes.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder said the plan, to be released today in committee, would include a variety of budget cuts, spending freezes and other "innovative policies" to bring the plan into balance.
"It may even have a 7.5 percent ending balance," said Yoder, R-Overland Park, making a reference to the statutory requirement for all state budgets that is seldom fulfilled. "The question is how we can afford to increase the cost of government when unemployment remains high."
Yoder's comments came a day after the House debated several tax proposals, including repealing numerous sales tax exemptions for churches, veterans groups and utility bills. None of the increases, nor several efforts to lower taxes, were adopted. Instead, the House voted to postpone debate on the exemptions bill until May 3.
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"The instructions were clear. The majority of legislators determined that they didn't want a budget that relied on higher taxes," Yoder said.
The state is facing a $467 million gap between projected revenue and mandated spending in the 2011 budget. The budget year begins July 1. Gov. Mark Parkinson has proposed raising the sales tax for three years to close that gap. He has said repeatedly that state programs, including public schools, social services and public safety, have been cut enough.
The outline of the House plan was in stark contrast to the version that emerged last week from the Senate, where the Ways and Means Committee endorsed a $13.8 billion package that still needs $364 million in new taxes to be balanced.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said the chamber's debate on the budget was on hold, likely until next week.
"I think a lot of senators are digesting what is in the bill, and what's not in the bill," said Schmidt, R-Independence.