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Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Strategy would raise $316 million, ensure funding for schools

February 13, 2002

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— A veteran House Democrat outlined a plan Tuesday to raise nearly $316 million to avert some budget cuts and provide extra money for public schools.

Rep. Bill Reardon, the chamber's longest-serving member, said his proposal would raise taxes for the wealthy while Gov. Bill Graves' plan for $228 million in higher taxes and fees would hit poor Kansans the hardest.

Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers, said they oppose parts of the plan. But some commended Reardon, D-Kansas City, for offering it.

"I'm glad to see someone's thinking outside the box," said Rep. Doug Mays, R-Topeka. "We can't have enough ideas at this point."

Reardon proposed raising individual and corporate income taxes as well as taxes on banks and insurance companies. He also wants to reinstate the inheritance tax and let the state use $110 million from its cash reserves.

In addition, he proposed increasing the sales tax by 0.75 percent on the dollar, to a total 5.65 percent  but exempting food from any tax.

The plan would prevent cuts in social service and higher education programs and allow a $172 per-pupil increase in aid to public schools, to a total $4,042, he said.

Reardon said he offered his plan to give legislators more options when final budget negotiations begin in early May.

"I thought, maybe, as one of the old guys, I should come forward," said Reardon, who has been in the House since 1975 and is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee.

The state faces a projected $426 million gap between expected revenues and spending commitments for its 2003 budget year, which begins July 1. Some leaders worry the projected gap could grow to $600 million when revenue estimates are revised in March.

"We're going to have to have some sort of new revenue to help," said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Graves has proposed raising $228 million by increasing sales, cigarette and motor fuels taxes and vehicle registration fees. He and many fellow Republicans object to raising income taxes, saying Kansas' rates are higher than those in surrounding states.

GOP legislators also fought hard for phasing out the inheritance tax four years ago.

"I'm not willing to revisit that, and I don't think it will pass," said Sen. Robert Tyson, R-Parker.

In addition, some Republicans argued Tuesday that banks and insurance companies will pass tax increases to consumers.

"There are certainly some ideas in here that would be difficult to pass," said House Appropriations Chairman Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing.

But Wilk said Reardon's plan at least stimulates debate on tax policy.

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