Kansas lawmakers prepare to debate tax hikes, school funding

Olive Rios
May 25, 2017

Earlier this week we reported on how Dan Patrick, the Texas Lt. Gov., was threatening to send the state Legislature into a special session if the state House of Representatives didn't approve the so-called "bathroom" bill, as well as a measure that would make it hard for communities to raise property taxes.

The new tax package - the latest to follow multiple failed plans - would raise $953 million over two years.

The House planned to debate it Monday evening. "Still working on building consensus".

The bill emerged late Tuesday after talks broke down between Republican leaders and House Democrats, whose votes would be needed to reach the supermajority threshold required in the constitution to pass the tax increases necessary to fund the measure.

"It's a good decision", he said.

Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019, and the state Supreme Court ruled in March that the state's funding for its public schools is inadequate.

Wednesday's report will be the first time the budget office has gauged the impact of eleventh-hour changes House Republicans made to gain enough votes to pass the bill. His peer on tax issues, Sen.

The House's proposed compromise - which the Senate plans to reject - would apply only to elementary and secondary schools; after it passed last weekend, Patrick and others criticized it as a change that does very little.

"Totally, up front", the Parker Republican said, "I think the Senate is going to have concern over some of this. Year after year, I have repeated my warning about our reliance on one-time funding and our eroding tax base, and yet again we have crafted a budget that only fixes some of the defects in our funding formula". GOP leaders were treating the tax vote as a test to tell them whether it might be more productive to pursue a mix of tax increases that Brownback might sign into law rather than a more aggressive attempt at undoing his favored income tax cuts that would need two-thirds majorities in both chambers to override a veto.

Meanwhile, conservative Republicans outlined a new plan for keeping Brownback's biggest political legacy - past income tax cuts - intact for another year. A more recent law requiring automatic reductions in the state's income tax rates would be stricken from statute.

Members inserted a provision increasing West Virginia's sales tax to 7.25 percent.

"The approaches so far have all been spend more, raise more taxes", said Republican Sen.

Senators said resolving the differences in taxes may be left to a House-Senate conference committee.

"If they didn't have, we assume they may soon", Johnson said. On Wednesday, repeal of an $11 million exemption for companion animal veterinary services was replaced in the bill by a $30 million hit on sales of customer computer software services.

"It's not fiscally responsible", he said.

"It would be exceeding hard to start on July 1 both for our (revenue) department and our businesses", Johnson said. Negotiators dropped in a promise to slightly reduce the state's sales tax on food in 2020 to make the new service taxes an easier sell.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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