Topeka The House's chief opponent to increased taxes announced Tuesday that he would try to shepherd increases in the state sales and cigarette taxes through his committee.
Rep. John Edmonds, a conservative Great Bend Republican and chairman of the House Tax Committee, has vehemently opposed plans to raise taxes to help mend a record $700 million shortfall in an estimated $4.4 billion budget.
But on Tuesday the 86th day in the 90-day legislative regular session Edmonds introduced bills that would raise about $266 million in taxes.
The measures would increase the state sales tax from 4.9 cents per dollar to 5.25 cents per dollar, the cigarette tax from 24 cents per pack to $1 per pack, and various tobacco taxes from 10 percent to 40 percent.
Under Edmonds' plan, the sales tax increase would be lowered to 5 cents per dollar after one year.
Edmonds said he would rather cut the budget to fit revenue, but he said a majority of lawmakers won't support such cuts.
"I'm a realist. The reality is you don't do things by yourself here," Edmonds said.
He said he asked constituents this weekend what tax they would like to see increased, if they had no choice. He said they said the sales tax because everyone pays that and the cigarette tax because the increase would prevent some young people from smoking.
He said he hoped the proposal would attract enough Republican votes to get a majority in the House.
"I don't want to add unnecessary spending to the budget simply to attract Democrats," he said.
House Minority Leader Jim Garner, a Coffeyville Democrat, said he was taken aback by Edmonds' remarks.
"Our spending priorities have always been consistent for those programs that directly impact the daily lives of Kansans. I would hope the Republicans would share the same priorities," Garner said.