Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that Kansas legislators are taking a “workman-like” approach to sifting through proposals for raising taxes to close a state budget shortfall, praising them after their annual session went into overtime with no plan having passed either chamber.
The Republican governor opened a Statehouse news conference by congratulating the GOP-dominated Legislature for “really working well.”
He said drafting a tax plan is difficult because in involves discussions among many lawmakers about many options.
Brownback and lawmakers must close a projected shortfall of $406 million in the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The gap arose after lawmakers aggressively cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in an effort to stimulate the economy, and one policy exempted the profits of 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers from taxation.
The governor wants to preserve the tax break for farmers and business owners, viewing it as an economic stimulus, while even some GOP lawmakers want to backtrack.
Legislators also are considering increasing the state’s 6.15 percent sales tax, a move Brownback now favors.
“There’s a great workman-like attitude,” Brownback said. “These things take a lot of time because you’ve got a lot of people involved, a lot of moving parts. That’s great. That’s what it ought to be.”
Legislators met Monday for the 92nd day of their annual session, two more than the 90 days legislative leaders traditionally schedule, at a total cost of $43,000 per day. Only five legislative sessions have lasted 100 days or more, according to legislative researchers, with the record of 107 days set in 2002.
The House Taxation Committee was convening Monday to work on a new plan after the full chamber voted down a plan last week that would have increased the sales tax to 6.85 percent. Several Republicans said afterward that the vote suggested the House did not want such a big increase in the sales tax.
“I’m not ruling out that they’re making progress, but it’s hard to tell,” said Rep. Tom Sawyer, of Wichita, the tax committee’s ranking Democrat.