Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday he will sign into law a deficit-producing tax cut after the Senate blocked a less aggressive measure to cut taxes.
Brownback said he would release next week plans for a bill signing ceremony on a measure that a state financial projection estimates would drive the budget into a negative ending balance ranging from $2.5 billion to $3 billion by 2018.
Brownback and his team, however, have disputed the forecast, saying the tax cuts will jolt the economy, producing jobs and revenues.
"We will have pro-growth tax reform in Kansas this year that will create tens of thousands of jobs and will make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business," Brownback said.
"I look forward to signing the bill on my desk and I call on legislators to finalize their work on the budget based on the enactment of Senate Sub. for HB 2117. The legislative session needs to conclude," he said.
Moderate Republicans, Democrats and even some conservative Republicans have said the bill Brownback intends to sign would crater the budget.
Democrats and moderate Republicans have said the tax cuts pushed by Brownback would increase the tax burden on low income Kansans to benefit the wealthy, while robbing funds for schools, social services and public safety.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugton, said, “We are asking for a responsible tax package that addresses the concerns of a large majority of Kansans while leaving room in the budget to restore cuts to classrooms and public safety.
“If we do not show good-faith and restore cuts to education, the courts may certainly tell us to add money to education this summer," Morris said referring to a school finance lawsuit.
Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, said, “The governor has told numerous senators that the state cannot afford House Bill 2117. The bill on his desk could well bankrupt the state and lead to massive cuts in our classrooms, roads and public safety. It is the governor’s responsibility to the state of Kansas to veto House Bill 2117." A group of former legislators called Traditional Republicans for Common Sense also called on Brownback to veto that bill.
Instead, Brownback said he intends to sign it.
“It is unfortunate that the Kansas Senate has refused even to debate a tax compromise bill that would have provided Kansans tax relief. However, strengthening the Kansas economy cannot wait," he said.
Brownback's statement came after the Senate voted 21-18 against removing a procedural hurdle to debate a proposed tax cut drafted earlier by Republican House and Senate tax negotiators. State Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, both voted with the majority. Even that proposal, critics of the bill said, would prevent the state from providing funds to needed services.
That bill would have lowered individual income tax rates and phased out taxes on non-wage income for 191,000 businesses over six years.
A separate bill — House Bill 2117 — that made the cuts quicker had already made it to Brownback's desk.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, called the bill that Brownback wants to sign the "nuclear option."
"It is completely irresponsible to purposefully sign a reckless bill `in hopes' that it can be fixed later," Davis said.