Politics & Government

Sales-tax repeal finds little traction in Topeka

Despite loud opposition to a 1-cent sales tax adopted by Kansas lawmakers last spring, efforts to reverse it this year are drawing little vocal support.

Only one lawmaker, Rep. Charlotte O'Hara, R-Overland Park, testified in favor of repealing the increase at a hearing Monday in the House Tax Committee. O'Hara said the state is losing business to Missouri, which has a lower state sales tax.

"We need to be lowering taxes to make our retailers more competitive," she told the committee. "We can't just increase the tax and expect it to have no effect."

In their last session, lawmakers voted to increase the state sales tax from 5.3 percent to 6.3 percent to bridge a budget deficit. Many opponents vowed to reverse that decision this year.

Gov. Sam Brownback opposes the repeal, saying that lawmakers should review the state's entire tax code before making piecemeal changes. Other lawmakers noted that the tax is set to decrease to 5.7 percent in 2013 anyway.

And then there's this: Returning the tax rate to 5.3 percent would mean $391 million in lost revenue for the state next year — adding to a deficit that already stands at $550 million.

"I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to find another $390 million in reductions," said Bernie Koch, a lobbyist for the Kansas Economic Progress Council, a group representing businesses that supported the tax hike to avoid deep budget cuts.

Even though the bill has little chance of passing, House Tax Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, said he'll let his committee vote on sending the measure to the full House.

"But I don't know when," Carlson said.