A tax bill backed by Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and other top Senate Republicans is a good starting point on addressing the state’s budget problems. But more revenue likely will be needed, along with more spending cuts.
The plan, which cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, would eliminate the state tax exemption on pass-through business income. It also would raise the bottom income tax rate from 2.6 percent to 3 percent and raise the higher bracket from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent.
The tax changes would increase state revenue by about $288 million next fiscal year, and by about $372 million in future years.
That additional revenue would be a big help. But it is far less than the budget shortfall, which is projected at about $900 million over the next 17 months. Also, the Kansas Supreme Court could rule soon that the state is inadequately funding K-12 public schools.
Wagle and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, are also working on budget cuts. A plan approved Tuesday would cut current year spending by $154 million, including $128 million from K-12 education and $23 million from higher education.
To lessen such damaging cuts, other tax options may need to be considered.
Gov. Sam Brownback is not much help. His budget plan relies heavily on fund transfers and other one-time sources of money that don’t structurally balance the budget.
He then complained that “Wagle’s tax plan needlessly harms the real people that serve as the lifeblood of Kansas.”
It’s Brownback’s tax policies that have harmed Kansas. Wagle and other lawmakers are trying to clean up the mess.