Brownback's Tax Proposal Unpopular with Both Parties ; Kansas Lawmakers Say Plan in Trouble or Dead in Water

By Carpenter, Tim | The Topeka Capital-Journal, January 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

Brownback's Tax Proposal Unpopular with Both Parties ; Kansas Lawmakers Say Plan in Trouble or Dead in Water


Carpenter, Tim, The Topeka Capital-Journal


The House and Senate's Democratic leaders said Friday there was deep bipartisan skepticism about Gov. Sam Brownback's recommendations to significantly raise Kansas cigarette and liquor taxes.

Some of their Republican colleagues at the Capitol concurred, but couched apprehension in less volatile rhetoric.

Brownback proposed about $200 million be raised with adjustments to these "sin taxes" in response to budget deficits of more than $700 million over the next 18 months.

State lawmakers with profound philosophical differences said in interviews Brownback's tax strategy was either on political life support or could be viewed as dead on arrival. The governor suggested the state nearly triple the cigarette tax and increase by 50 percent the tax bite on liquor -- a bitter pill for some legislators serving Johnson County and other border counties or communities.

"The tax plan doesn't have a whole lot of popularity," said Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe.

House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the supply-side income tax reductions authorized in 2012 and 2013 by the Republican-led Legislature and Brownback had directly resulted in the state's budget shortfall. They cut the top personal income tax rate 29 percent and exempted owners of 190,000 businesses from all income tax.

The governor's latest tax reform ideas -- including a freeze on new income tax reductions in 2016, as well as the budget package of one-year transfers and permanent spending cuts -- didn't properly address the crisis, he said.

"These changes to tax policy proposed by Governor Brownback do nothing to address the systematic problem created by his irresponsible tax polices and fiscal mismanagement," Burroughs said.

Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma, said lawmakers were embarking on a three-month debate that would produce a reasonable bill that balanced the state's budget in the current year and upcoming fiscal year.

"By the end of the day, we'll have a package that is different than Day One," Love said.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said there was sufficient bipartisan consternation in the House and Senate with the governor's tax blueprint that the ideas could be characterized as dead in the water. …

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