House panel OKs tax plan to rival governor’s

? A legislative committee approved its Republican chairman’s plan for cutting Kansas’ sales and income taxes on Tuesday, advancing an alternative to the governor’s proposal that more aggressively slashes income taxes.

Closed-door meeting

Kansas Senate Republicans have held a private meeting on tax issues ahead of debate on Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to move the state toward phasing out individual income taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce of Hutchinson told reporters before closing Tuesday evening’s meeting that GOP senators planned to discuss political strategy. He said they didn’t want Democrats to learn of their possible tactics.

Bruce also described the meeting as a “gripe session.”

The Associated Press lodged a protest.

The plan drafted by Rep. Richard Carlson, chairman of the powerful House Taxation Committee, would reduce individual income tax rates over the next four years only if state revenues grow by at least 2 percent each year. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal calls for cutting income tax rates each of those years regardless of state revenue.

But Carlson’s proposal also would allow the state’s sales tax to decrease to 5.7 percent in July, as scheduled by state law. The governor wants to keep the tax at its current 6.3 percent rate.

The committee’s voice vote sent the measure to the entire House for debate, a day before the Senate was to debate its own tax legislation. Senators are considering a bill that contains most of Brownback’s plan, including his proposal to continue the sales tax rate at its current rate.

Brownback and many Republican legislators want to follow up on massive individual income tax cuts enacted last year to stimulate the economy, but they also need to stabilize the state budget. Republican leaders in the House, including Carlson, have said they don’t think their chamber will support keeping the current sales-tax rate.

Carlson’s plan also would phase out all individual income tax deductions as tax rates decline, rather than target specific deductions for homeowners, as Brownback did. In addition, Carlson is proposing to divert $370 million over two years from highway projects to the rest of the budget.

“The path that we’re on, to me at least, is the path that is the right direction,” Carlson said just before the committee’s vote. “Perhaps none of us get there as fast as I want to go either, but we have to go there, I believe, in a responsible fashion.”

Brownback has said he wants to position the state to eventually phase out individual income taxes. Many GOP legislators have endorsed that goal, and some want to eliminate corporate income taxes as well.

“Governor Brownback has clearly stated his administration’s priorities — create jobs, grow the economy, protect core services, and reduce the size of government,” spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “He welcomes other ideas on how we can get to a zero state income tax and accomplish his priorities.”