Kansas governor says he would sign tax plan before House - KCTV5

Kansas governor says he would sign tax plan before House

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Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that he would sign a bill to balance Kansas' next budget by boosting sales and cigarette taxes, building pressure on the House's deeply divided GOP supermajority ahead of the chamber's potential vote. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that he would sign a bill to balance Kansas' next budget by boosting sales and cigarette taxes, building pressure on the House's deeply divided GOP supermajority ahead of the chamber's potential vote.
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that he would sign a bill to balance Kansas' next budget by boosting sales and cigarette taxes, but it wasn't clear whether there were enough votes in the House to pass it.

The measure was on the House's agenda after the Senate approved it Sunday, 21-17, with Republicans who control the chamber overcoming their own sharp disagreements. House members also were feeling pressure because Monday was the 109th day of a legislative session that is now the longest in state history.

But leaders of the House's GOP majority delayed Monday's debate at least several hours, with the possibility it could be canceled. Many Republicans said they believed the bill would fail.

Rep. Tom Moxley, a Council Grove Republican, said that the bill was "dead on arrival" in the House, while Republican Rep. Dan Hawkins from Wichita called it "the most draconian bill I've ever seen in my life."

"If your goal was to burn down Rome, you just did it," Hawkins said.

Rep. Jerry Lunn, an Overland Park Republican, said he would likely vote for the bill, but he doubted the sharply divided chamber could gather the 63 votes needed to pass any tax bill.

Brownback said during a morning news conference that he'd sign the bill if lawmakers passed it. It would raise $423 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- more than enough to balance the budget.

"Look, people have looked at 40, 50 iterations of a tax bill," Brownback said during a Statehouse news conference. "It's time to get this done; it's past time."

Rejection of the bill by the House would force legislative negotiators to draft a new plan if lawmakers are to raise enough revenues to prevent a deficit arising from the $15.4 billion budget lawmakers have approved for the next fiscal year.

But Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said the plan's rejection also could mean that lawmakers might not pass any tax plan -- and force Brownback to make spending cuts himself.

The state's budget problems began after lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging as an economic stimulus. The tax bill approved by the Senate would increase the state's sales tax to 6.55 percent from 6.15 percent and raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29.

Republican leaders pushed the tax plan to Senate passage after negotiators for the two chambers added several sweeteners to proposals that senators had overwhelmingly rejected only the day before.

The sweeteners included a measure dropping the sales tax on food to 4.95 percent in July 2016, another aimed at reducing local property tax levies, starting in 2018, and a third for a study of eliminating most sales tax exemptions by 2020.

Besides increasing sales and cigarette taxes, the measure would raise $24 million during the next fiscal year by increasing taxes for business owners. More than 330,000 business owners and farmers don't have to pay income taxes on their profits under a 2012 policy Brownback championed.

The governor has threatened to veto any plan that increases taxes for business owners by more than $24 million. But some House Republicans have pursued plans with lesser sales tax increases and greater tax increase for business owners, in defiance of Brownback's veto threat.

Democrats argued that under the latest tax plan, poor and middle-class families were being asked to pay for income tax cuts for the wealthy through consumption tax increases. Some GOP conservatives didn't think lawmakers were doing enough to curb spending.

Each extra day of the Legislature's annual session has cost the state more than $40,000. Lawmakers traditionally schedule their sessions to last 90 days, and the previous record of 107 days was set in 2002 -- another year lawmakers increased taxes to close a budget gap.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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