Politics & Government

House rejects tax plan to raise $1.2 billion over two years

The Wichita Eagle

Lawmakers remain gridlocked on taxes after the House rejected a bill on Monday that would have rolled back most of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts.

The 53-68 vote came on the five-year anniversary of Brownback signing the policy into law.

The House Tax Committee chairman, Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, was uncertain of the path forward after the failed vote.

“I know what people say they would like to see run. I do not know what will pass,” Johnson said.

Democrats split over the bill. Fourteen of 40 Democratic lawmakers supported the measure, joining moderate Republicans, who also backed the proposal.

“It is not perfect,” Rep. Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican who is considered a moderate leader, said of the bill. “You can find a reason not to vote for it. But the time has come to change course.”

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, voted against the bill. He said Democrats were pinning their political hopes on moderate Republicans.

“Be mindful that we have a path we are blazing. We were successful in getting people here because of the tough position we took last year. We’re going to give it up because the moderates are saying this is the best deal we’re going to get? It’s their problem. They are still the majority,” Burroughs told Democrats in a meeting before the vote.

The plan would have set personal income tax rates at 3.1 percent, 5.25 percent and 5.7 percent. The top bracket would apply to married couples with incomes greater than $60,000 or single filers with income of $30,000 or more. The bill also would have repealed an exemption for certain kinds of business income.

The bill would have raised about $1.2 billion over the next two years. Kansas faces a projected budget shortfall of about $900 million over that same period.

Lawmakers are also working on school finance plans that may include hundreds of millions in additional spending. The Legislature faces a court-imposed June 30 deadline to enact a new funding formula.

Conservative Republicans said the bill would harm taxpayers.

“They’re not wanting a bigger government. They want a balanced budget,” Rep. Randy Powell, R-Olathe, said of his constituents.

Voters want lawmakers to do their job in a way that minimizes the burden on the middle class, he said.

Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby, said the bill violated the Republican Party platform. Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, in a speech trying to convince Democrats to vote no, said the bill would violate the Democratic Party platform, too.

Neither the House nor the Senate has been able to pass a tax bill since House Bill 2178 early in the session. The bill would have raised about $1.1 billion over two years, less than the plan Monday.

Brownback vetoed HB 2178. An effort to override his veto fell three votes short in the Senate.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman

How they voted

Here’s how south-central Kansas lawmakers voted on SB 30 to raise taxes and roll back an exemption for some businesses. The bill failed 53-68.

Democrats voting yes: Tom Sawyer, Wichita; Steven Crum, Haysville.

Republicans voting yes: Roger Elliott, Wichita; Steven Becker, Buhler; Anita Judd-Jenkins, Arkansas City; Don Schroeder, Hesston; Joe Seiwert, Pretty Prairie.

Democrats voting no: Elizabeth Bishop, John Carmichael, Gail Finney, Henry Helgerson, KC Ohaebosim, Ponka-We Victors, Jim Ward, Brandon Whipple, Wichita; Tim Hodge, North Newton; Patsy Terrell, Hutchinson; Ed Trimmer, Winfield.

Republicans voting no: Leo Delperdang, Daniel Hawkins, Susan Humphries, Greg Lakin, Brenda Landwehr, Les Osterman, Chuck Weber, John Whitmer, Wichita; Doug Blex, Independence; Blake Carpenter, Derby; Pete DeGraaf, Mulvane; Kyle Hoffman, Coldwater; Les Mason, McPherson; Jack Thimesch, Cunningham; Kristey Williams, Augusta.

Absent and not voting: Mary Martha Good, R-El Dorado; Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center.

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