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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Conservatives at odds over budget, taxes as wrap-up session drags on

May 14, 2013

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— Kansas' elected leaders may describe themselves as conservative Republicans, but, at this point, they aren't getting along, and that means the state's budget and tax system remained up in the air Tuesday as the 2013 wrap-up session dragged on.

Gov. Sam Brownback and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, have endorsed a plan to keep the state sales tax at 6.3 percent instead of allowing it to fall to 5.7 percent on July 1 as current law dictates.

The higher sales tax would be used to cushion the budget blow from last year's income tax cuts and help pay for future income tax cuts, according to Wagle.

But House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, wants the sales tax to fall to 5.7 percent, which means budget cuts below what Brownback has endorsed, including the kind of cuts to universities that higher education officials have said would be devastating.

The Legislature returned last Wednesday to start the wrap-up session, but not much headway has been made on these issues since then.

One of the major obstacles to hammering out a budget agreement concerns funding of higher education.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said the House continues to endorse a cap on salaries and wages at post-secondary schools. But Merrick said he is trying to find common ground with the Senate. "I'm willing to compromise," he said.

And some name-calling, or alleged name-calling, has surfaced.

During a Senate Republican caucus meeting, state Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, said he heard that Merrick called Wagle "childish."

Merrick denied saying that, but added that if he did, he would apologize. His office released a list of Merrick's talking points that did criticize the Senate, but didn't include any name-calling.

Senate GOP leaders roundly criticized their House counterparts, saying their proposals were based on false budget assumptions, unrealistic revenue projections and would produce long-term funding problems.

Wagle urged her colleagues to be ready for a long standoff. "Bottom line, put on your seat belts," she said.

But that didn't sit too well with some senators who are left with nothing to do all day.

State Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said, "My district would rather see me home doing my job and being in my community and listening to them, than sitting up here waiting. With two conservative leaders in two chambers, I'm disappointed, really."

Others said that they felt like they weren't getting enough information since all the discussions are held behind closed doors between Merrick, Wagle and Brownback. Typically, budget and tax negotiations are hammered out in House-Senate conference committee meetings open to the public. Merrick said he wanted the conference committees to meet but Wagle wouldn't let them.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he was surprised that the conservatives were having so much difficulty seeing eye to eye. "The blame used to be always on the Senate moderate Republicans because they weren't willing to compromise with the conservative House. You can't blame them for that now because they're gone," he said.

A slew of moderate Republican senators were defeated in the Republican Party primary last August, putting the Senate under the control of conservatives.

One of those defeated in the GOP primary was former Senate President Steve Morris, whose name has surfaced in political circles as possibly running against Brownback in 2014.

Contacted by phone, Morris, a Republican from Hugoton, said he has no plans to run for governor, but he added, "In this business, you never want to say never."

Morris said there was been discussion around the state of trying to challenge Brownback, a conservative Republican, with an independent or third-party candidate. He said there is probably no way a moderate Republican could defeat Brownback during the GOP primary because of the strength of conservatives within the party.

Morris said Brownback's income tax cuts are hurting the state.

"The tax plan that the governor engineered last year was a big mistake, and this (Brownback's desire to eliminate the state income tax altogether) would just compound that mistake," he said.

Morris was one of nine moderate Republican senators who were defeated in the GOP primary in August 2012. The moderates were targeted by Wichita-based Koch Industries and groups loyal to Brownback, such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Kansans for Life.

Comments

Liberal 11 months, 1 week ago

Whatever you think the Koch Brothers are doing is pale in comparison to what George Soros is doing to the world. He controls you democratic shills and you do not even seem to know it. I am so tired of sheeple on both sides. Think for yourself.

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yourworstnightmare 11 months, 1 week ago

The all-in crazy versus the just plain crazy. It is a sad state of affairs in pitiful little Kansas.

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Carol Bowen 11 months, 1 week ago

Now, these legislators and the governor have sole responsibility for their tax cut mantra. There's no one to blame. This is getting interesting. Missouri is watching.

P.S. Good idea posted for balancing the tax cut plan. I hadn't thought of capping eligible businesses.

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thtb 11 months, 1 week ago

Well, I have a huge problem with so-called "conservatives" doing the budget behind closed doors. There has to be a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) here. Welcome to Brownbackistan, a state where the constitution goes down the toilet and the crazies take over. I just hope the people of Kansas will wise up to the crazy shenanigans of extreme right. There has not been much good that has come out of Topeka since old Brownie took over.

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avarom 11 months, 1 week ago

Shouldn't be called the Kansas State House.................More like the Kansas Mad House! What's the Matter with Kansas......EVERYTHING........Just pull my String.........Hopefully, some Will Sing...... May the Truth Be Told!

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jayhawklawrence 11 months, 1 week ago

It could be worse.

They have to be concerned that the honeymoon is way over and as the financial situation in the state continues to slide into the sewer, they are going to have plenty of egg on their faces.

They have yet to abolish the Kansas Department of Education and appoint a czar in the Governor's office. This would allow them to dramatically change the curriculum and the textbooks in this state.

Guess they couldn't agree on that one yet.

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John McCoy 11 months, 1 week ago

"What's the matter with Kansas" is that it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Koch brothers, both of whom are the illegitimate sons of John Birch.

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JohnBrown 11 months, 1 week ago

The Kansas legislature is a good example of the Don't Tread on Me crowd (=Republicans in name only) treading on everyone else.

Let's see what the free market says about caps on education salaries.

There is a good reason there is a book entitled "What's the matter with Kansas?" and the question still hasn't been answered.

Democrats and moderate Republicans need to pull together.

JohnBrown

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texburgh 11 months, 1 week ago

The Koch brothers and their affiliated organizations - the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity - should have been satisfied to get their Brownback income tax bill. But they got greedy and bought as many seats in the legislature as they could. Unfortunately for them - and worse for us - is that fact that these newest Republicans have no loyalty to anything or anyone. They are essentially anarchists ready and willing to destroy the state to satisfy their delusional ideology. Not just by eliminating all taxes and the services that go along with them but in the meantime imposing their ideology on government services. See what they are doing to education - banning common core standards, mandating a "celebrate freedom week" to teach their version of Americanism. Add to this voter registration, takeover of the judiciary, insane and unconstitutional gun laws, requiring physicians to lie to women patients, etc., etc.

And this so-called "staring contest" between Merrick and Wagle/Brownback is costing the taxpayers about $35,000/day, keeping idle legislators in Topeka and paying them for a few minutes of resolution passing on the floor of the House and Senate. This is the sixth day of this madness. $210,000 down the toilet.

4

daviskan 11 months, 1 week ago

Is anyone even suggesting trimming sales tax and dumping the brownback unneeded small business tax cuts and if not why not

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jayhawklawrence 11 months, 1 week ago

This example of perfect government belongs to ALEC and the Koch brothers. They bought it and they own it.

These people will never work well together. The ideas are wrong and the talent level is inadequate.

At least we have Kansas basketball to help us forget these people.

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Keith 11 months, 1 week ago

Contacted by phone, Morris, a Republican from Hugoton, said he has no plans to run for governor, but he added, "In this business, you never want to say never."

It's not a business, businesses produce useful things, all this Legislature produces is bad law and lawsuits.

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question4u 11 months, 1 week ago

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce wanted the intelligent and experienced legislators out of the way, but they replaced them with legislators too dumb to know that they're supposed to be puppets. They don't know that they're only supposed to be reckless with the budget, not utterly absurd.

The great thing for the rest of us is that there's no need to point out how "childish" and "unrealistic" these legislators are, since they've already described themselves as such and are doing their best to live up to their words.

Yes, Kansans be proud of your monster. If it only had a brain....

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freeadvice 11 months, 1 week ago

Well Brownback and Wagle have now proved that past promises to drop the sales tax mean nothing to them. So much for honesty from the hard right religious leaders. It ought to be fun to see how many of the so-called moral GOP vote to violate theirs oaths.

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