Topeka A coalition of Democrats and some Republicans on Tuesday defeated a House GOP leadership budget, saying that the measure cut too deeply into education and social services. The bill failed, 45-74.
The coalition is holding out for a tax increase and other budget maneuvers to bridge a revenue gap that has been estimated at nearly $500 million.
State Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, urged passage of the budget saying it funded critical needs while holding the lid on taxes.
“This budget balances and doesn’t require a tax increase,” Yoder said. “Maybe we need to remember that Kansans all across the state have had to cut their budgets,” he said.
But Democrats blasted the plan, saying it would make harmful cuts on top of $1 billion that has already been cut over the past 18 months from what was once a $6.4 billion budget. And Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said he would have vetoed the proposal.
The measure would have cut schools by $86 million, state employee pay 5 percent, and reduced numerous social service programs.
State Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, called it the “new Wal-Mart.” She added, “You can’t have government small enough to drown in a bathtub and big enough to pull your behind out of a flooded river.”
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, attacked proposed cuts to services for those with disabilities, and a 45 percent slice out of an early childhood block grant. “These cuts hurt children,” Ballard said.
But business interests stepped up pressure on legislators to oppose any tax increase, and instead called for balancing the budget with spending cuts alone.
“Simply put, we cannot tax our way to economic recovery,” said a letter given to legislators that was signed by 13 members of the Kansas Chamber executive board. Those signing the letter included leaders at some of the largest businesses in Kansas, including Koch Industries, AT&T, Cox Communications, Cessna Aircraft, and Cargill.
The Senate is scheduled to take up a budget and $350 million tax increase on Wednesday.
The tax proposal includes a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax rate, raising it from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar, and removing a state tax break for large businesses. Under the plan, the 6.3 cent rate would fall to 5.7 cents per dollar in 2013. Gov. Parkinson has said he supports the tax proposal.