Topeka — A powerful Republican lawmaker said Monday he has a proposal to reduce Kansas’ personal income taxes that would also allow the state sales tax to drop as scheduled, avoiding the GOP governor’s plan to stabilize the state budget by maintaining the current sales tax rate.
Rep. Richard Carlson, chairman of the House Taxation Committee, wants to allow the income tax rate to drop annually but only if state revenues grow by at least 2 percent each year. Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal calls for cutting income tax rates by a specific amount every year regardless of how much money the state is bringing in.
Carlson said his plan also would allow Kansas’ sales tax to drop as scheduled, starting in July, as promised three years ago when lawmakers temporarily hiked the sales tax to help fill a budget gap. The governor’s plan would keep the sales tax where it is — but Carlson said he doubts the House would approve canceling the decrease.
“We feel there’s going to be difficulty in passing the extension of the sales tax,” said Carlson, who shared details of his plan with The Associated Press on Monday, a day before he planned to present the plan to his committee.
Carlson also is proposing that the state divert $370 million from highway projects over the next two years if legislators can’t trim spending enough elsewhere in the budget.
Both his and the governor’s plans follow the massive income tax cuts that were enacted last year to stimulate the state economy but are now projected to create a budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July. Carlson, of St. Marys, said he tried to craft a plan that could pass the House, where GOP leaders have been cool to canceling the sales tax decrease.
The governor also wants to eliminate two popular income tax deductions for homeowners to prevent budget problems. Carlson said he’d like to phase out all individual income tax deductions as tax rates dropped, rather than targeting specific breaks.
Rep. Tom Sawyer of Wichita, the ranking Democrat on the House tax committee, wasn’t impressed with Carlson’s plan. Like other critics of last year’s cuts, he argues that they favored the state’s wealthiest residents over its poorest ones, and he said Carlson’s proposal does nothing to correct the problem.
Also, he said, continued reductions in personal income taxes will handcuff the state’s efforts to finance public schools and force local districts to boost property taxes at a time when local levies already have been rising.
“We’ve got a property tax problem in Kansas, not an income tax problem,” Sawyer said.