Topeka Emboldened by last week's election gains, Republicans in the Kansas House who lost a bid to stop the state sales tax increase say it's time for a rematch.
Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, is contacting his fellow Republican House members to gauge their thoughts on what they want to do when the legislative session starts in January.
One of Donohoe's top priorities, he said, is repealing the tax increase that went into effect July 1.
“I think there will be a vote,” Donohoe said Tuesday. The issue of taxes will be debated in the House, “and someone is going to bring up an amendment to repeal it. Whether it's successful, I don't know.”
During the last legislative session, a bi-partisan coalition of mostly Democrats in the House approved the tax increase by a 64-61 vote.
But in last week's election, Republicans made historic gains, going from a 76-49 advantage to a 92-33 margin. Many of the new Republicans campaigned on a pledge to shrink government and lower taxes.
Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a Republican, said he wants to hold down taxes, but has said he doesn't support repealing the sales tax increase.
“We need to hold our taxes down. I’m not proposing new taxes. I’ve not proposed taking the 1-cent sales tax off,” Brownback said.
In his letter, Donohoe states, “As you know, Gov.-elect Brownback has a legislative agenda but it may not be as conservative as we wish.”
The state sales tax increased from 5.3 cents per $1 to 6.3 cents per $1 and then is scheduled to decrease to 5.7 cents per $1 after three years.
Opponents of the increase said it would hurt taxpayers and the economy. But supporters said the increase was necessary to avoid permanent damage to schools, social services and public safety, which were targeted in several rounds of state budget cuts.
Donohoe said the reason for his letter to GOP members was to map out a Republican platform for the next session and ask Republican legislators who are running for leadership positions in the House where they stand on that platform.
“I want to know definitively where everyone is at, who is running for leadership,” he said, adding that he was not a candidate for a leadership post.
Donohoe said his other priorities are enacting tougher abortion regulations, auditing school districts, reducing the number of state employees and requiring identification to vote.
Eliminating the sales tax increase would create a $300 million revenue hole on top of what is estimated to be a $500 million hole when federal stimulus money runs out.
But Donohoe said cutting the tax will improve the economy by causing more businesses to locate in Kansas, which he said will benefit the state's revenue picture in the long run.