Topeka The Kansas Senate today is scheduled to consider a $350 million tax increase, and its outcome was uncertain.
The proposal, which has the blessing of Gov. Mark Parkinson, includes a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar, and removing the state portion of a tax break for large businesses. Under the plan, the 6.3 percent rate would fall to 5.7 percent in 2013.
Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said he didn’t know whether the proposed budget and tax bills would win approval. “People have seen all the options,” he said, “and they dislike most of them.”
Legislators are nearing the end of the 2010 legislative session facing an estimated $500 million revenue shortfall after having already cut the budget by nearly $1 billion over the past 18 months.
Today is the last day to receive legislative pay, although legislators could resume payments through a vote — a move that some say would be a public relations disaster.
On Tuesday, House Republican leaders pushed a proposal that held the lid on taxes but would have cut schools by $86 million, cut state employee pay by 5 percent and reduced numerous social service programs. After hours of debate, a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans killed the measure, which failed 45-74.
“This budget balances and doesn’t require a tax increase,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Maybe we need to remember that Kansans all across the state have had to cut their budgets.”
But Democrats blasted the plan, saying it would make harmful cuts on top of $1 billion that has already been cut from what was once a $6.4 billion budget. And Parkinson, a Democrat, said he would veto the proposal.
Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, called the House GOP leadership plan the “new Walmart.” 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.”
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.