Politics & Government

House, Senate scrambling to craft yet another tax plan

House and Senate tax negotiators swapped competing proposals in a series of meetings Friday but remained far apart on a deal to end the overtime legislative session.

With no end in sight to the impasse on sales and income tax rates, lawmakers called a rare Saturday workday for what will be the 99th day of an annual session that was originally projected to run 80 days.

The wrangling over taxes resumed a day after the House voted down a plan by two Wichita lawmakers who had attempted an end run around their leadership in an effort to break the logjam.

On Friday, House tax negotiators brought a new plan with some features that hadn’t been seen in previous tax plans, including a mechanism to slowly phase out a 2010 emergency increase in the sales tax that is now scheduled to expire July 1.

But the offer got a cold reception from senators, who remain committed to more rapid reductions in income taxes to keep the state on Gov. Sam Brownback’s “glide path to zero” income tax.

At the end of the day, Senate negotiators appeared agreeable to allowing the House negotiators to put their offer to a vote by the full membership of the House – which has defeated every other plan to come before it. But even if it does pass the House, the senators predicted it would be dead on arrival in their chamber.

The House plan doesn’t do enough to “lower taxes to create jobs” and also doesn’t “leave us with a sustainable balance,” said Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker and the leader of the three-person Senate contingent on the House-Senate tax conference committee.

Key features of the House plan include:

• Setting the sales tax at 6.15 percent, but with a mechanism to decrease it over several years to 5.7 percent. The sales tax now is 6.3 percent but is due to automatically revert to 5.7 percent on July 1.

• Setting standard deductions at $6,000 a year for single parents and $8,000 for married couples filing jointly. Last year’s sweeping tax cut bill set those deductions at $9,000, but that hasn’t taken effect yet.

• Phasing itemized deductions down to 50 percent of their current value by 2018.

• Bringing income tax rates down from 4.9 percent to 4.0 percent over five years for taxpayers making more than $30,000 a year, while reducing the rate from 3.0 percent to 2.3 percent for taxpayers who make less than $30,000.

• Restoring part of a food-tax rebate program, about $20 million in tax relief for low-income taxpayers.

Overall, the plan is projected to raise an additional $733 million in tax revenue over five years, compared to the current law.

The Senate counterproposal puts more of a focus on cutting income taxes, which Brownback and his supporters have said is the key to generating jobs and economic growth that will eventually put more money in government coffers, even at lower tax rates.

Key feature of that proposal include:

• Setting the sales tax at 6.15 percent and keeping it there.

• Standard deductions of $5,000 for single parents and $6,500 for married couples.

• Cutting the value of itemized deductions by 55 percent over five years.

• Reducing the upper-income tax bracket rate from 4.9 percent to 3.5 percent over five years; reducing the lower-income bracket rate from 3.0 to 2.5 percent.

• No food-tax rebate.

Overall, the plan is projected to generate an additional $817 million in tax revenue over five years.

The House is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the Senate at 10:30 a.m. It was not clear what, if anything, they can do before tax negotiators take further action.