Yael T. Abouhalkah

Kansas House taken hostage as 2015 Legislature becomes a national farce

Representative Jerry Lunn rubbed his eyes Thursday morning as the Kansas House continued voting on the largest tax increase in state history.
Representative Jerry Lunn rubbed his eyes Thursday morning as the Kansas House continued voting on the largest tax increase in state history. AP

The 2015 Kansas Legislature devolved into a farce Thursday morning as House members were locked in their chamber and essentially taken hostage for more than two hours.

Why? Because Gov. Sam Brownback and other GOP leaders were trying to round up the votes needed to pass the largest tax increase in Kansas history.

They need to find $400 million to balance a budget thrown out of whack by Brownback’s excessive income tax cuts of 2012.

On Day 112 of a 90-day session, House members on Thursday were being pressured to vote “yes” or risk seeing Brownback put in place a $197 million cut to K-12 schools and a $48 million reduction to higher education.

Correctly so, many members — including some Republicans — wanted to call Brownback’s bluff and not pass this tax increase.

Shortly after 10 a.m., the House took a final vote that resoundingly rejected the latest attempt to boost the sales and cigarette taxes, and to wipe out a host of tax deductions for individual income tax filers.

So the session continued Thursday, with the governor and Legislature unable yet to find good ways to finance the budget.

Oh, here’s one way to help: Put back in place the income tax on hundreds of thousands of businesses that now pay no taxes, thanks to the 2012 law.

If a compromise cannot be reached, we could be back to the farce of what happened this week in the House.

On Wednesday night, House members easily defeated the sales tax/cigarette tax proposal.

But in a surprising twist, Republican leaders decided to institute a Call of the House, meant to keep the House members in the chamber, hoping for some people to change their minds and vote for the bad bill.

When more members actually started voting “no” on the measure to register their unhappiness, House leaders sent the members home but told them to be back by 8 a.m.

Essentially, the House on Thursday had been taken hostage by Brownback and GOP leadership — until the final vote occurred a few hours later.

This was not Kansas’ finest hour.

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

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