Politics & Government

Lawmakers will take up budget, tax plans following break from Topeka

After announcing he would veto the tax bill sent to him by the Legislature, Gov. Sam Brownback officially signs the veto, in his ceremonial office on Feb. 22.
After announcing he would veto the tax bill sent to him by the Legislature, Gov. Sam Brownback officially signs the veto, in his ceremonial office on Feb. 22. Associated Press

Kansas lawmakers plan to take up budget and tax plans after they return to Topeka in early March.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a plan to raise income tax rates, add a third bracket and end an exemption for pass-through business income barely survived last week. The House voted to overturn the veto, but the Senate fell three votes short.

“We’re back to square one,” said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who also chairs the budget committee. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have enough votes to override the veto.”

Both houses are in recess right now at the traditional halfway point of the legislative session. They will gavel back in on March 6.

McGinn said her committee will meet after the break to consider bills that may include spending cuts to K-12 and state agencies.

“We’re running out of time to balance a budget,” she said. The state faces a projected shortfall of about $320 million for the fiscal year that ends in June.

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Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she’d be willing to bring the governor’s tax plan to the Senate floor.

“We need to talk about his plan and let everyone share their concerns publicly,” she said.

Brownback has pushed for increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, liquidating a long-term investment fund and selling the state’s future proceeds from a settlement with tobacco companies to close a projected budget hole over the next year and a half.

Wagle said she and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, remained concerned about any plan that includes retroactive taxes. The proposal that failed in the Senate would have levied taxes on some income retroactively to Jan. 1.

“A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck,” Wagle said.

House Tax Committee Chairman Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, also said his committee will move the governor’s plan to the House floor shortly after lawmakers return from break.

“We can move forward on that,” Johnson said. “We think it’s better to move it forward rather than hold it bottled up in our committee and have our committee and those decisions limit that.”

“I don’t know that there’s any support for that plan,” he added.

He said lawmakers will also re-introduce plans similar to what failed in the override vote.

“We want to make sure that the budget problems, the structural imbalance, is behind us rather than ahead of us,” Johnson said. “I would rather that we continue to address it sooner rather than later.”

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