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Kansas Senators Reject Tax Plan, Remain Divided

Senate President Susan Wagle presiding over the tax debate. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Kansas senators rejected a tax increase Wednesday that would have eliminated a budget shortfall. The 18-22 vote shows there remain deep divisions in the chamber.

The plan would have rolled back much of the 2012 tax cut to raise more than $1 billion over two years. The state faces a deficit approaching $1 billion through the middle of 2019.

Republican Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine said this was a chance to put the state budget on solid ground.

“My constituents…have told me time and time again, ‘you know what the problem is, find the political courage to fix it,’” said Longbine. “I think this is the fix.”

The tax proposal ultimately failed because of opposition from members of both parties.

The plan raised taxes too much for some conservative senators to stomach. Republican Gene Suellentrop wants them to take another look at the budget and trim back spending to help ease the deficit.

“There are some ways to lower that cost so that we do not have to take that much more money from the citizens of Kansas,” said Suellentrop after the vote.

Some Democrats voted against the tax hike because they said it wouldn’t raise enough. Senator Laura Kelly said it wouldn’t have funded a school spending plan that a House committee is developing.

“It wasn’t easy to vote no on it, but how can you vote for something that doesn’t fund the schools when that’s the whole purpose of 50 percent of our budget?” said Kelly.

Kelly would like to see them finalize school spending before passing a tax plan.

Earlier this session, both the House and Senate approved a tax plan, but it was vetoed by Governor Sam Brownback, who has staunchly defended the 2012 tax cuts. The House voted to override the veto, but the Senate was a few votes short of the 27 needed for an override.

Longbine was clearly frustrated after the vote Wednesday.

“I think we went backwards today,” said Longbine. “Politics got in the way of good policy.”

He said the divisions make him believe there aren’t enough votes in the Senate to override the governor. He said that might mean they need to pursue a smaller tax proposal that the governor would sign instead of a larger tax hike that would require a veto override.

Stephen Koranda has more:


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