Kansas almost adopted a single-rate income tax last year. Key lawmakers are joining Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to stop the Republican tax cut.
by Blaise Mesa
- Republicans came close to passing a single-rate tax last year, but key lawmakers remain opposed
- Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly proposed her own cuts to property taxes, income tax holidays and more
- Republicans want a flat tax, but they may not have the votes to get it
The path to a Republican-led tax cut looks murky one day into the Kansas legislative session after three key lawmakers signaled they back the competing tax plan pushed by the Democratic governor.
Republicans came close to passing a single-rate flat-tax plan last year that would have taxed everyone’s income at 5.15% if they make more than $6,150 a year. Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed it, saying it favored the wealthy and would bust the state’s budget.
But Republican leaders in the Legislature say it’s a single-rate tax or bust this year. They hold a supermajority in the state House and Senate. That means if everyone voted on party lines, Republicans could override any veto from the governor. But that majority is slim enough that losing a few votes kills bills.
Democrats enjoy some bipartisan support for their bill, but they need to convince so many more legislators to abandon the plan they supported last year.
The Kansas House never had a chance to override the veto because the Senate did not save the bill. Twenty-seven senators need to vote to override a veto to save a bill. Last year, the single-rate tax plan never topped 25 votes.
Key no votes that killed last year’s proposal came from independent Sen. Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha and Republican Sens. John Doll of Garden City and Rob Olson of Olathe. Those senators joined Kelly for a joint press conference Monday morning supporting her tax plan.
“I know that we are not a likely group,” Kelly said at the press conference. “I don’t think anyone had this team on their 2024 predictions list. But here we are united in our desire to cut taxes for every single Kansan, not just a few at the top.”
Sen. Caroyln McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican, originally voted against the flat-tax plan last year, then changed her mind and supported it. But she told The Kansas City Star she hasn’t committed to supporting a tax bill yet.
Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn, a McPherson Republican, supports the single-rate tax because everyone gets a tax cut. It’s fair, he said, because the more you make the more you pay and nobody’s taxes are going up.
“It’s a philosophical issue as it relates to the left, (they) want many tiers,” Wilborn said. “We more conservative people think that a flat rate … is more congenial to economic development.”
Republican Speaker of the House Dan Hawkins of Wichita agrees, saying in a statement “it seems we’re going to pick up right where we left off last session; I’m disappointed but not surprised to see the Governor playing politics with taxpayer’s money once again.”
A Republican-led tax cut plan hasn’t been released yet. The Star reports that the party wants a possible 5.25% rate.
Wilborn said a single-rate tax could pass without the support of the three senators who backed Kelly’s plan because some Democrats have voiced support for the flat tax.
“We haven’t had a chance to visit with the president (of the Senate) or the leadership and talk through that,” Wilborn said. “It’d be unfair to make some statement.”
Kelly’s tax plan would immediately end the state’s sales tax on groceries, eliminate the Social Security income tax, create a back-to-school tax holiday and raise residential property tax exemptions to $100,000. Kelly said it could put $1 billion back into Kansans pockets over three years.
Doll, the Garden City Republican, shared some of Kelly’s concerns about the cost of the Republican-led proposal.
“We’re going back to what we did a decade ago,” he said to reporters. “And that didn’t work. I don’t care where you stand on the political spectrum. It didn’t work.”
Both Republicans and Democrats want tax cuts and the state has the money to do it. Kansas has more than $2 billion in surplus. The debate now comes down to philosophical issues.
Pyle, the Hiawatha independent, said there is more agreement on tax cuts this year — like cutting Social Security taxes. Pyle said there will be a “very, very good tax cut for the people of Kansas.” As it stands now, though, “I’m supporting the governor’s plan.”
This article was republished here with the permission of: The Wichita Beacon