Editorial: Veto override great for Kansas

Lawmakers were right to reverse course on Gov. Sam Brownback’s catastrophic tax experiment.

Kansas legislators made the right call Tuesday in adopting a tax bill that finally abandons Gov. Sam Brownback’s trickle-down policies, an approach that has been nothing short of fiscally disastrous the past five years.

In a span of less than 24 hours Tuesday, the tax bill was approved by both chambers, then vetoed by the governor and finally passed when two-thirds of the Senate and then two-thirds of the House voted to override Brownback’s veto.

Senate Bill 30 undoes many of the policies Brownback pushed through a more conservative Legislature in 2012 and 2013. The governor promised that the sweeping tax cuts would stimulate the Kansas economy, spur growth and create jobs. Instead the economy floundered and the Legislature came to Topeka this session facing a billion-dollar plus budget deficit.

The new bill repeals the exemption on nonwage business income that allows more than 330,000 farmers and business owners to pay no state income taxes. It gets rid of the so-called “glide path to zero” strategy that would phase out state income taxes over time.

The bill puts back in place a three-tiered income tax system and raises individual rates across the board. It also adds popular deductions and tax credits that benefit lower and middle-income wage earners, including the child care tax credit.

The bill will raise an estimated $1.2 billion over the next two years and ensure the state can pay for the school finance bill lawmakers passed on Monday.

Lawmakers had to fight the governor throughout the session. Despite the dismal fiscal results, his low approval ratings and a sharp rebuke in the 2016 elections, Brownback never wavered in his faith that the tax cuts would put Kansas on a growth path. In issuing his veto Tuesday, he remained defiant, saying, “We have worked hard in Kansas to move our tax policy toward a pro-growth orientation. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 30 takes us backward in that effort. We can and we must balance our budget without negatively harming Kansas families.”

The bill approved Tuesday was very similar to a tax bill that the Legislature approved in February only to see Brownback veto it. Then, the veto override came up three votes short in the Senate.

This time around, Lawmakers had the votes — the Senate voted, 27-13, to override the veto, and the House followed in an 88-31 vote. Significantly, it was the first time in Brownback’s seven years as governor that the Legislature had voted to override one of his vetoes.

That’s as it should be. The tax bill, much like the one in February, takes a fair and reasonable approach to fixing the state’s budget woes. It avoids one-time fixes such as sweeping money out of the state highway fund or selling off the state’s tobacco settlement payments.

The tax bill required compromise and significant support from both sides of the aisle. It’s the kind of pragmatic, reasonable legislation that Kansas voters have made clear they expect in Topeka.

May there be more such legislation to come.