Topeka — Gov. Mark Parkinson’s proposal to increase the state sales tax rate by one cent was rejected Wednesday by Republicans in a House committee.
Later in the day, the Kansas Senate approved a bill that ratifies several decisions made by Parkinson, a Democrat, to balance the current fiscal year budget.
One of those is a 10 percent cut to health care providers for Medicaid services.
State Sen. Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park, tried to restore the Medicaid cut, saying the $22 million reduction would put Medicaid recipients, especially those in nursing homes, in jeopardy of losing care, and also meant the loss of federal matching funds.
“The governor’s choice is a wrong choice for the health care of Kansas and the economy of Kansas,” Colyer said.
But opponents of Colyer’s amendment said it would make the budget hole worse because it borrowed funds from federal dollars earmarked in the next fiscal year without replacing them.
“We cannot sit and vote to increase spending without finding some way to pay for it,” said state Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. Colyer’s amendment was defeated 24-16, and the final budget bill was later approved 36-4 and sent to the House for consideration.
Lawmakers face a projected $400 million budget deficit in the fiscal year that starts July 1. In 2009, the Legislature and Parkinson cut nearly $1 billion from a $6.4 billion budget.
Earlier Wednesday, the House Tax Committee voted 12-7 along party lines to essentially kill Parkinson’s plan to raise the state sales tax from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents dollar for a three-year period.
Republicans voted to spike it, while Democrats said that while they didn’t support the measure, they thought it should be tabled so that it could be worked on later, and possibly changed.
“None of us want to see a one cent sales tax increase, but perhaps when push comes to shove we may need,” a smaller increase, said state Rep. Julie Menghini of Pittsburg, who is the ranking Democrat on the Tax Committee. Menghini said rejecting the bill was “at best, premature, at worst, irresponsible.”
But Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, said the committee would continue to consider tax bills throughout the session.
“The opportunities are not lost at this time,” Carlson said. He said the committee may spend a week of hearings on proposals to remove sales tax exemptions.
Parkinson said the sales tax increase was needed to help bridge the budget gap. Parkinson has said bridging that shortfall through budget cuts alone would do serious harm to education, social services and public safety.
A tax increase has been supported by public schools and advocates for Kansans with disabilities, but opposed by business interests and the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity.
Parkinson has said he is willing to consider other possible tax increases to provide additional revenue.