Topeka A game of legislative poker is gathering in the Statehouse today and the stakes couldn't be higher.
Gov. Sam Brownback's office said that if the Senate doesn't approve a tax-cutting plan that is before it today, he would sign into law a larger tax cut that an analysis shows will produce a $2.1 billion deficit by 2017.
"We have looked at the numbers and could make it work," said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for Brownback.
Jones-Sontag was referring to a plan that the Senate in March pushed into a House-Senate tax conference committee that would cost $3.7 billion over five years.
A group of moderate Republican senators initially voted against that plan, but after heavy lobbying from Brownback they reversed direction, saying they simply wanted to get a vehicle into the conference committee for tax negotiations.
Now that plan is being held over their heads.
House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said if the Senate doesn't accept the tax-cutting plan produced by the House-Senate tax conference committee, the House may simply vote on the Senate plan that has already been approved and send it to Brownback for his signature.
Moderate Republicans and Democrats say approving that more expensive tax cut would devastate Kansas schools, social services and public safety. Brownback has argued that tax cuts will produce economic growth.
Senate debate today will be on a plan that reduces individual state income tax rates and phases out non-wage income taxes for nearly 200,000 businesses. It also provides some funds for local property tax relief and allows the state sales tax to decrease from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent as scheduled.
The larger tax cut waiting in the wings would also keep in place numerous tax credits and deductions that Brownback had sought to wipe out. The Kansas Department of Legislative Research projects that plan will turn a nearly $600 million budget surplus into a $2.1 billion deficit by 2017.