Kansas Senate panel endorses most of Brownback’s tax package

A Kansas Senate committee on Tuesday endorsed most of Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for further overhauling the state’s tax system, but it jettisoned one revenue-raising proposal that would help balance the budget.

The GOP-dominated Assessment and Taxation Committee spent less than 10 minutes discussing a bill containing the Republican governor’s plan, which aims to position the state to eliminate personal income taxes eventually. The committee’s voice vote sends the measure to the full Senate for debate, possibly next week.

The committee endorsed Brownback’s proposals to follow up on aggressive income tax cuts enacted last year by phasing in a second round of reductions in individual income tax rates over four years. The bill also promises that rates will continue to drop in the future if Kansas experiences healthy economic growth.

But Brownback also proposed revenue-raising measures to stabilize the budget over the next few years. The committee backed his proposal to scrap a popular income tax deduction for the interest Kansans pay on their home mortgages. It also agreed to keep the state sales tax where it is, instead of reducing it as scheduled in July.

However, the committee rejected Brownback’s proposal to eliminate a second income tax deduction, for the property taxes that Kansans pay on their homes.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican who serves on the tax committee, said many GOP senators didn’t want to end two big tax breaks for homeowners at once.

Work on tax legislation is just beginning. The final version is likely to emerge from negotiations between the House and Senate after each approves its own measure.

Brownback is pitching proposals as a five-year plan to put the state on a “glide path to zero” when it comes to individual income taxes. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan, who attended the committee meeting, said the governor remains flexible about how to accomplish the goal while stabilizing the budget.

In recent days, Democrats have harshly criticized Brownback’s plan for concentrating on raising new revenues in its first three years and delaying most of the benefits from cuts in individual income tax rates until the fourth and fifth years.

The bill endorsed by the committee nets the state $949 million in additional revenues over the three years starting in July, according to the Legislature’s research staff.