Topeka — Conservative legislators have an alternative to Gov. Bill Graves' plan to increase taxes. They call it the "Tax Me More" Fund, to collect voluntary contributions.
Graves refused to ignore or brush off their facetious suggestion Wednesday. He called it nonsense and criticized conservatives for not being serious enough about solving the state's budget problems.
About a dozen conservatives, led by Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, had a Statehouse news conference to unveil their proposal, promising a bill would be introduced in both houses next week.
They passed out envelopes provided by the Kansas Taxpayers Network, an anti-tax group with its headquarters in Wichita, and said Kansans could start sending contributions to the Department of Administration immediately.
Huelskamp mocked a suggestion Graves made in his State of the State address that Kansans would accept a tax increase to prevent cuts in some government programs.
"There are some differences of opinion, a different understanding and reading public opinions," Huelskamp said. "We'd like to introduce a means which would allow Kansans to speak for themselves."
Graves had his own news conference immediately afterward, in his office one floor up. He labeled the conservatives' event "theater made up of bad actors."
"Whoever those folks were downstairs would be better off staying home and just mailing in their no votes," he said. "The next group can have their theatrical road show, and I'll be happy to respond as well."
The exchange showed how much some of Graves fellow Republicans oppose increasing taxes to help close a projected $426 million shortfall for the state's 2003 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Graves has proposed $228 million in tax increases. They include raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes 65 cents and on a gallon of gas by a penny. The state's sales tax would increase by a quarter-cent on the dollar.