Government & Politics

Kansas Senate votes down Brownback tax proposal that would raise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products failed in the Senate on Tuesday.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products failed in the Senate on Tuesday.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s attempt to raise cigarette and alcohol taxes to help the state’s finances failed in the Kansas Senate on Tuesday after Republican leaders admitted they didn’t think the plan had much support to begin with.

After almost voting down the entire bill piece by piece, lawmakers ended the debate by effectively killing the bill on a 37-1 vote.

The action came as the Kansas Legislature continues to try to find common ground on a tax policy to help overcome roughly $1 billion in projected shortfalls through June 2019. The vote shows that Brownback and the Republican-led chamber may be far from finding a consensus.

“If I were him, I would go back to the drawing board,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican.

Brownback’s proposal avoided ending his signature tax cuts and instead opted to increase taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The plan also called for an increase in business filing fees and other tax changes to help bring the state roughly $191 million in the next fiscal year.

Republicans, Democrats and Kansas City-area business owners have strongly opposed the plan since it was released in January.

Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat who spoke against the tax plan, said the proposal was “nowhere close to what we need.”

“He’s not really part of the solution right now,” Holland said of Brownback. “He’s more just a roadblock.”

The Senate tax committee struggled to even get the bill out to the chamber’s floor because of a lack of support last month.

Even conservative Republicans who tend to support the governor said Tuesday they questioned why the bill was debated by the Senate.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, said the tax plan should not have made it to the floor Tuesday.

“We shouldn’t be trying to raise taxes when we haven’t even looked at resolving the budget issues with spending cuts,” Pilcher-Cook said.

Brownback said he wouldn’t comment when asked about the tax plan earlier Tuesday.

“This is a tough task that people have in front of them to be able to figure out how we get things moving forward,” Brownback said.

The tax on a pack of cigarettes would have increased by $1 under the bill, and the tax on other tobacco products would have jumped to 20 percent.

The liquor enforcement tax would have increased from 8 to 16 percent.

Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican and one of the governor’s closest allies in the Legislature, said the Senate wasted time with its debate.

Earlier in the day, he told Republican senators that it seemed like putting the governor’s tax plan on the floor was “a game.”

“All these votes are meaningless,” Masterson said. “Null and void. Complete waste of the day.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw