Archive for Thursday, April 11, 2002

Senate begins debate of its version of budget

April 11, 2002


— The Senate debated a proposed state budget Thursday as a plan for raising taxes $335 million to finance government programs cleared one of its committees.

The budget proposal would narrow the state's estimated $700 million budget gap to somewhere between $300 million and $400 million at the end of the next fiscal year, depending on how much lawmakers decide to use from the state's rainy day funds.

Much of that gap could be covered by the $335 million tax plan endorsed by the Senate's Assessment and Taxation Committee on a 6-5 vote. The measure would increase a wide array of taxes, including those on individual income, sales and cigarettes.

In the full Senate, members voted 24-15 against an amendment to increase state aid to public schools by $20 per pupil, at a total cost of nearly $12 million. The budget plan itself would keep the aid unchanged, at $3,870 per student.

Sen. Christine Downey, D-Newton, offered the amendment, saying schools desperately need the money.

Republicans said the budget being debated was already unbalanced.

"We have a responsibility to try to do the prudent thing," said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

But even Republicans who want to increase spending on education said they are going to have a difficult enough time passing a balanced budget without adding new spending.

Other Republicans said the state should look to reduce spending when many of its citizens are feelings the effects of an economic recession.

Sen. Ed Pugh, R-Wamego, told his colleagues they should visit forced farm sales and unemployed workers to get the proper perspective.

"We would we ever think about spending money we don't have?" he asked.

The tax plan endorsed by the Assessment and Taxation Committee was presented by its chairman, Sen. Dave Corbin, R-Towanda.

The measure would:

 Raise individual income taxes about 5 percent, to raise $93.8 million. The increase would stay in effect for three years. The plan also would offset higher income taxes with $10.5 million in tax credits for poor working families.

 Increase the sales tax to 5.2 percent from 4.9 percent on June 1, to raise $114.7 million. Offsetting the increase would be $34.5 million in sales tax rebates to poor families.

 Increase the cigarette tax by 65 cents a pack on June 1, to 84 cents, to raise $111.2 million.

 Double the wholesale tax on other tobacco products, to 20 percent, generating $4 million.

 Increase excise taxes on beer, wine and hard liquor by $18.1 million.

 Reimpose inheritance taxes for nieces, nephews and non-relatives who are heirs, for $20 million.

 Double the fees that corporations pay for the right to do business in Kansas, raising $18 million.

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