Topeka Senate President Steve Morris on Tuesday signaled his concern with a major tax overhaul pushed through the House by conservative Republicans.
“Some may argue that it is, in fact, fiscally irresponsible and poor public policy to virtually wipe out any potential increase in state revenue, particularly at a time when we are making deep cuts to education, threatening to close Kansas Neurological Institute, proposing pay cuts to our state employees and making other extremely difficult budget cuts that have serious repercussions for our citizens," said Morris, a Republican from Hugoton.
The state is facing an estimated $500 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Cuts to public schools and social services are under consideration.
The House-approved tax legislation would require a cut in the corporate and individual income tax rates for any fiscal year where tax revenues rise above last year's total.
Supporters of the bill, which is in part based on research by Gov. Sam Brownback's budget director Steve Anderson, say the reductions in tax rates will attract more business and industry to the state. The concept has been supported by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Opponents say the measure will increase state government's reliance on the state sales tax, which hits low-income Kansans the hardest, and will deprive education, public safety and social services of any new revenues as costs increase.
Morris also said the proposal is similar to the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights that was passed in Colorado and has “crippled” that state's economy.
House members had taken a Senate bill that dealt with requiring retailers to provide the correct sales tax rate on receipts and replaced that language with the tax overhaul proposal.
Morris had declared the bill “materially altered” and referred it to the Senate tax committee for further study. That had raised questions from House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, who said the bill should have advanced to a House-Senate conference committee.
“Time is running out and I hope the Senate's intent is not to ‘run out the clock’ on good policy coming over from the House,” O'Neal said.
Morris said the proposed major change in tax policy needs to be fully vetted in a Senate committee.