Topeka — Legislative Democrats on Wednesday criticized Republicans who denounced Gov. Mark Parkinson’s plan to increase taxes.
But the Democrats conceded that many of them don’t support Parkinson’s proposal to hike sales and cigarette taxes.
They did, however, praise Parkinson, a Democrat, for putting out a proposal to bridge a $400 million revenue shortfall, and challenged Republican leaders, who hold significant majorities in the Legislature, to back off criticizing Parkinson and put out a budget plan themselves.
“Now is the time for the majority party to come forward with their specific plan to fill this $400 million budget gap,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.
At a news conference, Davis and other Democratic leaders said $400 million in cuts would devastate schools, universities, social services and public safety. In 2009, officials cut nearly $1 billion from a $6.4 billion state budget.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said Republicans don’t have a plan yet because they are working through the appropriations process in the various budget committees, and discussing with constituencies what needs to be done.
He said Parkinson and his staff are full-timers, while the Legislature is a part-time job. The idea that Republican legislative leaders should have a budget proposal shortly after the governor unveils his plan “is a little bit too much to ask,” O’Neal said. The legislative session started Monday.
And even Democrats would not get behind Parkinson’s proposals to increase the state sales tax by one cent for three years, and increase the cigarette tax by 55 cents per pack.
Some of the Democrats said a sales tax increase would hurt the poorest the most.
State Democratic Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, however, said Parkinson’s proposal was meant to be a starting point in the debate. “It was the opening pitch. It was not intended to finish the game,” Hensley said.