TOPEKA — Ten House and Senate Democrats challenged Republican legislators Wednesday to put forth their own plan for balancing the state budget if they don't like the governor's plan for sales and tobacco tax increases.
But the Republican speaker of the House responded that he thinks it's unreasonably early to expect GOP lawmakers to release a budget plan.
The Democratic lawmakers conceded that they have their own misgivings over Gov. Mark Parkinson's plan to close a $400 million budget gap with a 1 percentage point increase in the sales tax coupled with dramatically increased tobacco taxes.
But they complimented their party's governor for putting forth a detailed plan to get negotiations started and said it's time for the GOP lawmakers, who have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature, to step up.
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"We were particularly concerned not that Republicans disagreed with the governor, but that they presented no ideas as to what they wanted to do with the state," said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.
Democrats are "by no means united" on the governor's tax plans, said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.
But he said the Republicans "have dismissed from Day One, with the term DOA, dead on arrival, the governor's proposal, so what is their alternative?
"If it's to cut their way through this, I say that is devastating, because we have had five rounds of cuts."
House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said coming up with a budget is what the legislative session is for.
He also pointed out that the governor had months to work out a budget.
"This idea that in 48 hours, we're supposed to have a plan for making these reductions is a little bit too much to ask," he said.
The legislative Democrats conceded they don't have a formal budget plan, either.
But they said it's up to Republicans, as the majority party, to start things off.