Government & Politics

Legislature overrides Brownback’s veto of bill that rolls back his 2012 tax cuts

The Republican dominated Kansas Legislature that has soured on Gov. Sam Brownback’s vision for the state voted late Tuesday to roll back the governor’s signature tax cuts.

Lawmakers voted to override Brownback’s veto of a tax plan estimated to bring the state more than $1.2 billion over a two-year span.

The Senate vote was 27 to 13, and the House followed by agreeing 88 to 31 to supersede the Republican governor’s wishes on the tax plan and force the changes into law.

Lawmakers marshaled together a coalition of moderate Republicans, conservatives and Democrats to overcome the governor’s opposition to seeing his landmark tax cuts, which have in large part come to define his tenure in Topeka, fundamentally come to an end.

Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican, said that he respects the governor and other lawmakers.

“Respect to me does not mean blind agreement,” Longbine said.

A major vote in the House came from the leading Republican in the chamber.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, resisted tax increases for much of the 2017 session.

But Tuesday night, Ryckman voted to override the governor’s veto. He had not voted for the tax plan when it passed the House Monday night.

Immediately after the House adjourned Ryckman rushed to his office and didn’t answer a question from a reporter about his vote.

The bill originally passed the Kansas Legislature late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Brownback vetoed the bill later Tuesday.

“This is not an easy vote,” said Rep. Troy Waymaster, a Bunker Hill Republican who voted for the override.

Some Republicans may have seen the tax increases coming, but they refused to let them easily pass into law.

Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican, said lawmakers are trying to eat their way out of debt with one giant bite

“Too much, too fast,” Dove said of the increase. “Too big....This is not a good deal.”

A handful of other conservative Republicans in the statehouse continued to decry the new spending being pushed by lawmakers and said the House and Senate are doing the opposite of what the people of Kansas want them to do. They also said the tax increase is the largest in state history.

“What we’re doing is fleecing our constituents,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican.

Other lawmakers said they were concerned with how the tax increases would harm those with lower incomes and families in the state.

“The hour is late, but that’s not the reason to vote for poor legislation,” said Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican.

Individual income would be taxed at rates of 3.1 percent, 5.25 percent and 5.7 percent starting in tax year 2018. A phased in rate begins during tax year 2017. The changes also end Brownback’s tax cut for certain business owners, known as the LLC exemption.

The tax bill also extends the sales tax revenue bond program, known as STAR bonds, by moving the sunset date to July 2020.

Tuesday’s veto was Brownback’s third this session. He vetoed a bill that raised more than $1 billion in tax revenue back in February, and followed that by striking down the Legislature’s attempt to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act a few weeks later.

Attempts to override the governor’s veto on both those bills failed.

Tuesday’s vote to turn away from Brownback’s wishes was the most recent signal that a statehouse that moved more towards the center after the 2016 election cycle has come to resist the policy points long championed by the Kansas Republican.

The legacy of Brownback’s signature policy change loomed large over Tuesday night’s debate.

“Where’s the common sense?” Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, asked during the debate. “We should have gotten off the crazy train a long time ago.”

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, made it clear during the floor debate that he voted for the 2012 tax cuts.

But it later became clear that the cuts went too deep, he said.

“He still believes in this,” Denning said about Brownback. “That’s OK. I don’t.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw