Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kansas Republican leaders under pressure from right

January 17, 2012


The top Republican leaders in the Kansas House and Senate face criticism from their political right because of how they’re handling major issues.

Senate President Steve Morris has been targeted by small-government, anti-tax conservatives who’d like to oust him from his seat in the GOP primary in August. The Hugoton Republican faces dissention among GOP senators for creating a special study group on tax issues — a move some interpret as an attempt to stall Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to overhaul the individual income tax code.

In the House, Speaker Mike O’Neal seems an unlikely target of criticism from the right because he’s established conservative credentials and been an ally of the conservative governor. But shortly after O’Neal removed another conservative from the powerful House Appropriations Committee, that lawmaker excoriated him in an email and accused O’Neal of abusing his power by naming himself chairman of the committee drafting political redistricting legislation.

The criticism faced by Morris demonstrates that as much power as conservatives gained from the 2010 elections, a key question for voters in 2012 will be whether they want to push the state further to the right. Rep. Owen Donohoe’s criticism of O’Neal shows conservatives aren’t a monolithic bloc.

“We work with a diverse group — some would say an eclectic group,” said House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfried, of Olathe, whose Statehouse office features a large, framed poster of former President Ronald Reagan and quotes the conservative icon’s so-called 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Donohoe, who’s from Shawnee, has faulted O’Neal for being too close to Brownback, who some conservatives think hasn’t done enough to cut spending. And after O’Neal removed Donohoe from the Appropriations Committee, Donohoe sent a Jan. 7 email attacking him on a number of issues.

Among other things, Donohoe noted that O’Neal’s wife, Cindy, who’s worked for more than two decades as an aide to House committees and the House GOP caucus, is now the committee’s administrative assistant.

The state ethics commission dismissed a nepotism complaint against O’Neal in 2009, saying there was no evidence he helped his wife get a job with the GOP. Donohoe’s email brought a quick response from Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, who said he decided “completely on my own” to hire Cindy O’Neal.

Donohoe also criticized O’Neal, a 27-year veteran of the Legislature, for appointing himself chairman of the committee that will redraw House members’ districts. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, is the panel’s ranking Democrat.

Meanwhile, Morris faces political turmoil because he leads the last significant moderate stronghold in state government.

He and other senators are labeled as moderates in part because they worked in 2010 to avoid an impasse with then-Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson over balancing the budget and supported his push to increase the state’s sales tax. They’ve also resisted some conservatives’ push for hard caps on state spending growth and last year quietly blocked a House-passed plan to phase out individual income taxes, fearing it would starve education and other government programs.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has targeted Morris and seven other moderates in GOP primaries, and the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity also plans to weigh in with media campaigns.

Morris announced in October that he’d have a special group study tax issues during this year’s legislative session. His announcement came as Brownback’s administration was drafting its tax plan, which cuts individual income tax rates, eliminates deductions and credits and helps 191,000 business operators by exempting their partnerships and proprietorships’ earnings from income taxes.

Morris said he created a special study group so that he could appoint nonlegislators and get the public directly involved in tax discussions. “Taxes are so important. They affect the daily lives of every Kansan, and I think it’s important to have public input and evaluate these — in other words, look before you leap,” he said.


Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

Ideology can be a dangerous thing. Beware of anyone, left, right or middle who claims they have the revealed truth and will save us from ourselves. Good column.

mloburgio 6 years, 4 months ago

this is how the kansas gop teaparty is going after the middle class and the poor with their tax cuts!

Brownbacks tax cuts = Class Warfare

To compensate for these reductions in income taxes, the Governor’s plan eliminates itemized deductions (including home mortgage interest and charitable contributions). It eliminates incentives for 529 education savings programs and long-term care insurance premiums. It eliminates the refund for sales tax on food for low-income Kansans. I also understand it eliminates part of the Homestead property tax refund.

The plan also eliminates tax credits for: * Adoption * Alternative fuel tax * Assistive technology contribution * Child and dependent care * Child day care assistance * Community service contribution * Disabled access * Earned income (EITC) * Environmental compliance * Historic preservation * Individual development account * National Guard employer health insurance * Small employer health benefit plan * Temporary assistance to families contribution * and more.

It appears that this plan moves the tax burden from the richest Kansans to the middle class and poorest Kansans. For example, sales tax is the most regressive tax we have. Making the 1% sales tax increase permanent not only reneges on our promise to remove the sales tax increase, it puts a disproportionate burden on low-income families. Removing the refund for sales tax on food and the Earned Income Tax Credit is a double whammy for the poorest working Kansans. In fact, President Ronald Reagan once said the Earned Income Tax Credit was “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

Eliminating the deduction for home mortgage discourages home purchases for the middle class. Cutting the upper marginal income tax rate benefits the richest Kansans the most. Low-income Kansans can buy a Big Mac with their income tax cut while the folks at the top can buy a yacht with theirs. Not only that, when the income tax is eliminated altogether, there will only be sales and property taxes left to pay the bills.

Debt increase by presidents: Reagan 186%, Bush 54% Clinton 41% Bush II 72% Obama 23%. Source CBO.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 4 months ago

+1 Stop it, though. The 'truth' hurts and can stifle Internet 'debate.'

William Weissbeck 6 years, 4 months ago

The second to last paragraph in the article caught my eye. I've read most of the LJW articles on the Brownback tax plan, but apparently missed the detail about not taxing income from proprietorships and partnerships? At least under the Federal tax system, this type of income is taxed at the individual level, but I'm not familiar with Kansas tax law to know how it's treated. Does Brownback really propose not to tax this income, or to reclassify it for taxing under more favorable corporate tax rates? This kind of monkeying around with definitions can be a slippery slope. There are many partnerships that really are not really businesses, but are simply investment partnerships intended to produce income or useful tax losses.

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