Archive for Monday, May 27, 2013

Kansas Legislature returns to face tax, budget decisions

May 27, 2013


— The current legislative session is tied into knots over taxes and spending because legislators are trying to unravel what a Republican majority led by Gov. Sam Brownback did last year.

Last year, following a political standoff, Brownback signed into law what was called "the nuclear option": deep income tax cuts that projected revenue deficits for years to come.

One year later, Republicans, who hold super majorities in the House and Senate, are trying to figure out how to balance the state budget and continue Brownback's goal to eliminate the state income tax.

On Tuesday, after taking off the Memorial Day weekend, legislators will continue their overtime session to consider a plan that would increase the state sales tax, reduce popular income tax deductions and decrease the standard deduction, while lowering income tax rates. Over a five-year period, the package will increase taxes by $857 million.

"This is shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to lower and middle class," said State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.

But Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, insists the plan will lower the tax burden on Kansans after 2018 through the decreasing income tax rates.

"We are implementing large and continuous tax cuts," Wagle said.

Wagle, Brownback and House GOP leaders subscribe to the tax philosophy that elimination of the income tax will grow the economy and produce jobs.

Democrats say lowering income taxes increases pressure to hike the state sales tax and local property taxes, both of which hit low- and middle-income Kansans harder.

Both the tax and budget plans pushed by Republicans this session are only the beginning, they say.

The current state sales tax rate of 6.3 percent was established in 2010 and meant to be a temporary three-year rate to offset huge revenue drops during the Great Recession. The 6.3 percent rate is scheduled to fall to 5.7 percent on July 1.

But the plan agreed to by House and Senate tax negotiators last week would set the rate at 6 percent, reduce income tax deductions, such as those for charitable contributions, mortgage interest and property taxes, and slash the standard deduction. It also cuts over a five-year period the top individual income tax rate from 4.9 percent to 3.5 percent, and the low rate from 3 percent to 2.3 percent.

On the budget side, the spending plan that has been developed by House and Senate Republican leaders would administer an across the board cut to higher education of 3 percent over two years. It also sweeps funding of all vacant positions, which universities say will produce double-digit funding cuts in some areas.

Under the proposed budget, public schools will receive no increase in base state aid in the next school year.

The proposal essentially ignores a court order to increase school funding by approximately $500 million. That order has been appealed by the state to Kansas Supreme Court, which could issue a ruling during the next legislative session.

And even those within Brownback's administration are decrying proposed budget cuts.

In a memo distributed to legislators, Kansas Secretary of Corrections Ray Roberts says a proposed $12.5 million cut would force the closure of a prison in northwest Kansas and leave unsupervised low- and medium-risk offenders, including sex offenders, who are on parole.

Democrats adamantly opposed to Brownback's income tax cuts last year, especially the elimination of income taxes on nonwage income for about 190,000 businesses, which is reducing revenue to the state by about $180 million per year.

Brownback has stated the business tax break will result in businesses adding jobs and that Kansas will lure businesses from other states.

Earlier this session, Brownback did interviews with various national media organizations, touting the lower income tax rates. "We're seeking tax refugees," he told Bloomberg TV. "So anybody watching this show, whether you're in New York or anywhere, come to Kansas."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the budget cuts and tax increases proposed this year by Republicans "are what happens when the governor pushes through a reckless income tax plan."


question4u 4 years, 12 months ago

"So anybody watching this show, whether you're in New York or anywhere, come to Kansas."

Yes, come to Kansas.

Just ignore what you've seen on other shows about Kansas legislators joking about killing immigrants from helicopters, telling immigrants by their "olive complexion," and using the "n word" just to shake things up.

Forget what you've heard about doctors being forced to inform patients about studies that they believe are flawed, legislators sending an unfunded mandate to the KU Medical Center to influence research for religious reasons, and pushes to reject standards that will prepare high school students for college.

Don't pay any attention to the lawsuits over cuts to school funding and the attempts to change the state constitution so that adequate provision no longer has to be made for public education. Ignore the impending cuts that will affect state universities, none of which ranks in the top 100 nationally.

If you don't care about anything but paying less income tax AND you actually WILL pay less income tax because you're either wealthy or a business owner or both, then come to Kansas. If your only concern is yourself, you'll feel right at home.

Grump 4 years, 12 months ago

Instead of resolving the budget/tax crisis, I predict more useless, absurd social legislation as a diversion; banning masturbation maybe.

verity 4 years, 12 months ago

They'll just deny services if you are blind, because you know how you get that way---

verity 4 years, 12 months ago

question4u put it very well.

I will add that this is not being done to grow the economy of Kansas. Quite the opposite.

It's being done to take us back to a dark ages type of existence. Next to no middle class, the extremely poor who never get ahead no matter how hard they try, and their overlords who are pretty much a law unto themselves and use/tax the peasants as they see fit. We are expendable workers who can easily be replaced when we die/ become disabled and cannon fodder for constant war. Our lives have no inherent value except to serve them.

Family values indeed. Respect for life, uh-huh. No, it's all about power---money is power and too much is never enough to feed the insatiable appetite of Brownback, Kochs et al.

Orwell 4 years, 12 months ago

One way or another Brownback and the rest of the hired help will see to it that the rich get a good return on their campaign investments. Given the lack of a control group no one will be able to prove whether these cuts actually created new businesses, or whether new businesses contribute enough to the economy to make up for the giveaways. You can be sure, though, that the average Joe/Jane will bear a larger share of the burden of government, and that the benefits of government programs will go increasingly to those who need benefits the least.

Meanwhile, state government is undergoing a conscious concentration of power in the hands of a very few – all of whom are deep in the pockets of those who can afford to buy public policy. We used to have a state government that cared about the average citizen; now we get only power-hungry extremists beholden to those who care only for their own bottom line. The saddest part of all this may be the well-intentioned Republicans who go along with such a travesty.

Linda and Bill Houghton 4 years, 11 months ago

And the "conservative" Republicans have done their best to purge our legislature of the well-intentioned Republicans, the moderates.

JohnBrown 4 years, 11 months ago

The problem with the Know Nothings is that they choose not to recognize facts, and deliberately lie by telling us that a tax increase is actually "...implementing large and continuous tax cuts."

These people really do know nothing, and want to stay that way.

So long as Kansans continue to choose these morons we will get what we deserve.


George_Braziller 4 years, 11 months ago

No, gridlock indicates freedom from intelligence. The legislature is acting like a bunch of third graders fighting over who gets to sit where around the sand box. There's enough sand to go around but all they do is fight over how many grains each gets. Recess is over and then they come out to the playground after lunch and start it all over again.

Rinse and repeat.

chootspa 4 years, 11 months ago

If you like tax cuts and smaller government, then surely you hate the gridlock that costs us $45,000 of taxpayer money per day while they fight over how much they raise your taxes to pay for the billionaires to get their cut.

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