Yael T. Abouhalkah

Spineless Kansas Legislature faces furlough Friday challenge

Kansas Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican, didn’t look happy Thursday as he discussed plans to raise taxes.
Kansas Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican, didn’t look happy Thursday as he discussed plans to raise taxes. AP

As furloughs loom for thousands of state employees, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature entered Friday with no clear path toward passing a final budget and tax plan.

The spineless members continue to ignore the best way to bring in more revenue: Reinstate the income tax on thousands of businesses that now pay nothing, which is patently unfair.

Instead, lawmakers have been done plenty of blind alleys in recent days, even as they meet on Day 106 of the legislative session. That’s cost taxpayers an extra $43,000 a day for the past 16 days of overtime.

On Thursday, the House crushed Gov. Sam Brownback’s costly plan to increase the sales tax on 3 million Kansans from 6.15 percent to 6.65 percent.

Earlier this week, some Senate members out of the blue came up with a plan to kill $635 million in tax exemptions a year for schools, nonprofit hospitals and scouting organizations. That idea fortunately was terminated.

So what’s left to discuss on Friday?

Plenty of bad ideas, and you can bet they will get attention.

The Senate still has a proposal to slash $400 million across-the-board from the next budget. That would include about $180 million in K-12 spending.

It’s a ridiculous-on-its-face plan — yet it caters to the hard-line GOP members who want to reduce spending without having to think about it too much.

The higher sales tax remains on the table, because Brownback continues to push consumption taxes as the best way to make up for the hundreds of million in state revenue lost because of his excessive income tax cuts approved in 2012.

Instead, the Legislature — if it has the courage — must take another look at reining in the tax cuts for the thousands of businesses that don’t deserve them. That would be far better than placing yet another burden on regular taxpayers in the form of far higher sales taxes.

Brownback has threatened to veto a rollback of his tax exemption for businesses.

So what? If the Legislature can find its spine, it will approve this kind of tax increase and send it to the governor.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.