The Buzz

What will Kansas do on sales tax extension?

The big issue in Kansas as the Legislature reconvenes next week for its wrap-up session is whether lawmakers will extend -- permanently -- the temporary sales tax increase adopted three years ago.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative, is in the unusual position of pushing for the tax increase. He needs it to plug budget gaps.

The Senate, not up for re-election again for three long years, has gone out on a limb for it despite promises in 2010 that the increase was temporary. The House appears to be adamantely against it.

So, what will happen?

Well, wise insiders are pointing out that right now it’s 2:1. That is, the governor and the Senate are in lockstep on this issue against the lone House.

That gives the pro-extension forces a decided advantage.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, seems to recognize what he’s up against. He told me Tuesday that the upbeat tax numbers released that day bolster the House’s case that the extension isn’t needed, at least right now.

But, and this is a big “but,” Merrick also recognizes a truism in legislative politics. The plan for the wrap-up session is that it will last just a few days. Merrick doesn’t want to trigger an internal GOP war by refusing to go along with any extension, even if it’s only three-tenths of a cent instead of the full six-tenths of a cent that Brownback wants.

Given that, Merrick was tossing around the word “compromise” a lot in my conversation with him. He knows that’s how things work at the end of a long session.

Compromise. He may have some convincing to do when it comes to his own caucus.

But Merrick also knows he’s out-gunned. It’s 2:1, after all.

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