Kansas lawmakers look to confront governor again on tax hike
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators jump-started work Monday on raising income taxes to fix the state budget by drafting a new proposal that’s similar to one Republican Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed weeks ago.
The new proposal would roll back personal income tax cuts championed by Brownback in 2012 and 2013 to close projected budget gaps totaling more than $885 million through June 2019. It would hike rates and return Kansas to having three tax brackets, with a top rate of 5.45 percent instead of 4.6 percent for the state’s wealthiest filers.
Lawmakers believe the measure would raise $879 million over two years. While it’s short of the more than $1 billion raised by the bill that Brownback rejected in February, the tax rates would be the same for 2018.
House and Senate negotiators signed off on the details Monday evening, hours after legislators returned from their annual spring break to wrap up their business for the year. Legislators pushing the new bill hoped it would have the two-thirds majorities in both chambers necessary to override a potential veto.
“It’s been very fluid,” said House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a moderate Dighton Republican who supported the previous bill.
The Senate would consider the new plan first, possibly as early as Tuesday.
But even as another showdown with Brownback loomed, some lawmakers doubted that their new plan would raise enough money after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that the state’s funding for public schools is inadequate. Democrats and some GOP legislators believe the state must boost phase in hundreds of millions of dollars in increases to satisfy the court.
“It does not in any way address the additional dollars we’re going to need to satisfy the courts,” said Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat.
Legislators received some good news Monday when the state Department of Revenue reported that the state’s tax collections in April were slightly better than expected. Kansas collected about $639 million in April, about $1.8 million more than anticipated.
Meanwhile, the Senate swore in a new member, GOP Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, of Baxter Springs. Republicans in his southeastern Kansas district picked him to replace former Sen. Jake LaTurner, of Pittsburg, appointed last month by Brownback to fill a vacancy in the state treasurer’s office.
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