Republican leaders’ attempt to combine a tax plan and a school finance formula in hopes of winding down a lengthy legislative session failed Monday after lawmakers resoundingly rejected the mashed-together proposal.
The 32-91 vote in the Kansas House was the latest signal that lawmakers are probably far from reaching the end game of a session that is approaching the longest in state history.
Negotiations over the weekend resulted in a bill that paired a new school finance formula required by the Kansas Supreme Court with a tax package that raised income tax rates and in large part rolled back Gov. Sam Brownback’s earlier tax cuts.
Those changes were estimated to bring the state more than $1 billion in new money over a two-year span.
Some conservative Republicans and Democrats alike said the two issues should not be included in the same bill.
Members of all three factions in the Kansas House — Democrats, moderate Republicans and conservatives — voted against the patched together legislation when it made it to a floor vote.
“This is not the answer,” said Rep. Cindy Neighbor, a Shawnee Democrat.
Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican, told his fellow GOP colleagues that the proposal “was not a Republican bill. It’s not a compromise. It’s a total sellout.”
Other Republicans welcomed the proposal as lawmakers try to appease the state’s high court by addressing the adequacy issues the court found in the current education funding system.
The bill would have helped fund education by raising income tax rates, bringing back a third individual income tax bracket and ending Brownback’s tax exemption for certain business owners.
“This is a direct answer to the court,” Rep. Erin Davis, an Olathe Republican, said after telling lawmakers during the House debate that she planned to support the bill.
“This legislation is good enough to get us moving again,” said Rep. Bradley Ralph, a Dodge City Republican.
The school finance formula called for adding roughly $195 million to education next school year and then almost $98 million on top of that in the year after.
It also funded all-day kindergarten, according to the Kansas State Department of Education, and increased early childhood funding.
But the proposal also expanded a tax credit scholarship program that goes toward private school education that has been a flashpoint during this year’s education debate.
That program, according a document from the state revisor’s office, allows corporations and other selected companies to get a tax credit if they contribute to a scholarship-granting organization.
Monday’s bill would have allowed individuals to get the tax credit for making a contribution.
Brownback wouldn’t commit to the combined tax and school finance proposal when asked about it before the debate Monday.
The governor has resisted attempts by the Legislature to roll back his tax policies, and vetoed an attempt in February that was also estimated to bring in more than $1 billion in revenue over a two-year span.
Speaking with reporters Monday, the governor reflected once again that he would prefer a single individual income tax rate, or at the least fewer tax brackets.
An effort to do just that was overwhelmingly rejected by lawmakers earlier in the session.
“I think everybody’s just trying to look for a way to get to the close of the session,” Brownback. “Sessions are easy to open, hard to close.”