Topeka Citing a need for public input in tax policy, Kansas Senate President Steve Morris on Tuesday announced that he was forming a bipartisan committee to study options for reducing taxes.
“Right now, there are a lot of ideas being floated around, but what they all seem to be missing is citizen input,” said Morris, a Republican from Hugoton. “This isn’t something that should be done behind closed doors by a bunch of bureaucrats.”
The move stood in contrast to the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback, also a Republican, who is promising to push tax cuts through the Legislature.
Nick Jordan, Brownback’s Kansas Department of Revenue secretary, is leading the effort to produce a plan, but none of those discussions or deliberations have been open to the public. Brownback has said he wants to cut state income taxes.
Morris said he expected several proposals to be up for consideration, including Brownback’s — ones that have been proposed in the past by various legislators, and others. Morris said he wants to make Kansas tax policy more business-friendly.
Morris said public input is crucial in devising ways to lower taxes.
“One of the reasons Washington got itself into so much trouble is because they listened to special-interest groups instead of the folks on Main Street,” he said. “We’re not willing to let those same mistakes be made in Kansas.”
Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, and chair of the Senate tax committee, will serve as chair of the tax study group. Others named to the group include state Sens. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, and Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka.
Public members of the study group will be named once the legislative session starts. The group will be tasked with making a recommendation to the Senate tax committee for action, Morris said.
Morris invited Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka to name a member to the group, and Hensley picked Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.
“I support President Morris’ call for a transparent, bipartisan study group that will allow the people of Kansas to participate in discussions over future tax reform issues,” Hensley said. “Kansas taxpayers have the right to know how these reforms will affect their pocketbooks, and have the right to voice their opinions before members of the Legislature.”
Holland is the ranking Democrat on the Senate tax committee, has worked on tax issues for years, and was the Democratic nominee for governor last year.
In recent days, Democrats have stepped up voicing their concerns about Brownback’s statements about eliminating or reducing the state income tax. Brownback has said that will attract more businesses to Kansas.
But House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said decreasing income taxes would increase pressure to hike sales and property taxes.
“I agree that we should reform our tax structure, but only if it gives everyone a fair shake and provides relief to those who need it the most. If Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature believe we have the ability to significantly cut taxes, why not eliminate the sales tax on groceries,” Davis said.