The search for a tax solution in Kansas continues.
State lawmakers on Wednesday knocked down the latest attempt to roll back Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts and boost the state’s tax revenue by more than $1 billion over a two-year period.
The Kansas Senate voted 18-22 on the legislation that would have brought back a third income tax bracket, raised each individual income tax rate and ended Brownback’s 2012 tax cut for business owners.
Seven of the Senate’s nine Democrats voted against the bill, which they said did not raise enough money to cover a new school finance plan. They voted alongside conservative Republicans, who opposed such a large tax increase, to defeat the bill.
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The vote was a chance to end the tax experiment, Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine said, and structurally balance the budget.
“They’ve told us to fix this,” Longbine said about Kansans. “Today was the chance to do that, and politics got in the way of good policy.”
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, decided to vote for the bill, but said it was a difficult decision for him.
Denning resisted a similar tax increase when Brownback vetoed a bill in February that raised slightly less money.
“The plan before us does increase taxes on everybody, no doubt about it,” Denning said during the debate.
The bill’s failure was the latest defeat for lawmakers who are struggling to pass a tax plan that will be able to garner enough support to overcome Brownback’s likely veto.
And it was the latest in a string of setbacks for Republican leaders who have tried to push forward with a new tax plan during the first two weeks of the Legislature’s wrapup session.
Kansas is facing projected budget shortfalls of almost $900 million over the next two fiscal years, but that figure does not include a proposed increase in school funding to appease a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court to adequately fund public schools.
Longbine, an Emporia Republican, said the bill the Senate debated Wednesday treats the middle class in a fairer method than a two-tier tax plan or a flat tax.
In recent tax talks, Democrats have held back on supporting proposals floated by their Republican counterparts. Their apparent opposition has been enough to slow momentum for new tax proposals.
Both the House and Senate called off debates last week after support for different tax proposals fell apart.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the bill Wednesday failed to raise enough to cover both projected budget shortfalls and a new school finance formula.
“This bills falls far, far short,” Hensley said.
Sen. John Doll, a Garden City Republican who voted for the bill, said it feels like lawmakers are “back to ground zero.”
“I’m under the impression this was as good as it was going to get,” Doll said.
How they voted
Here’s how senators from Johnson and Wyandotte counties voted on the new tax plan:
Yes votes: Republicans Barbara Bollier, Jim Denning, John Skubal, Dinah Sykes.
No votes: Republicans Molly Baumgardner, Steve Fitzgerald, Julia Lynn, Robert Olson, Mary Pilcher-Cook.
Democrats David Haley, Pat Pettey.