‘Largest Tax Increase’ In Kansas Defeated After Rare Overnight Hold

By John Celock

Updated 11:23 a.m. June 11, 2015

Following an additional two hours in session on Thursday morning, the Kansas House defeated the tax bill 21-94 after a series of lawmakers changed from yes to no after it became clear the bill would not pass.

During the two hour session, several lawmakers switched to yes, including three that had changed from yes to no on Wednesday night. During the session, several lawmakers urged their colleagues to pass the bill, with Speaker Pro Temp Peggy Mast (R-Emporia) saying that not passing a tax bill would be “unconstitutional.”

Original Story

Unable to break an impasse amongst Republican lawmakers, Kansas legislative leaders hit the pause button Wednesday night on voting on what is described as the largest tax hike in the state’s history.

The state House paused the vote on the tax bill – needed to cover a $400 million budget deficit – at midnight with 29 House members voting for the bill and 86 against, with 63 votes needed for passage. The House will reconvene at 8 a.m. central time Thursday reassuming the vote count. The state Senate has already passed the bill and lawmakers earlier on Wednesday passed a bill to tweak the Senate action. The impasse comes as House members are in the 111th day of the annual 90 day legislative session.

“There is a lot in this bill. From my understanding this is the largest tax increase in the history of the state of Kansas,” House Democratic Agenda Chairman Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) said during Wednesday night’s debate.

The bill would hike the state’s sales tax to 6.55 percent, dropping the food sales tax to 4.95 percent in a year, along with opening a study of most sales tax exemptions in the state and start a tax amnesty program. The tax plan is needed to plug a budget hole caused by the large income tax cuts the state enacted in 2012.

The bill would also enact a property tax cap for local governments in the state, requiring cities and counties to go to public referendum if the property tax hike exceeds the rate of inflation.

Republican lawmakers have been at an impasse over how to cover the budget deficit over the 21 days of the overtime session, with some calling for more spending cuts and others for sales tax hikes. The House did not have the votes to pass the tax bill on Monday, with a series of amendments being drafted, including allowing more groups to retain tax exemption status as non-profits. The amendment bill is now pending in the state Senate.

Democrats and a faction in the Republican Party are calling for a tax bill that allows for LLC owners to pay personal income taxes, a cut that was put into effect in the 2012 bill.

“This bill raises $470 million while we leave 330,000 business owners, including myself, not paying taxes,” Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita) said Wednesday.

Sawyer argued against various new sales taxes in the bill, including those on garage sales and charity raffles.

House Taxation Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb (R-Overland Park) argued that this was the last chance for lawmakers to pass a revenue bill or face budget cuts. He said that Gov. Sam Brownback (R) would bring lawmakers back in a special session next week to make cuts to the budget if the tax bill failed.

Whipple – who argued against a provision saying that tax deductions for children would not tax effect until a Social Security number was issued for a year – said that the bill should not be rushed. Whipple said the bill was several hundred pages long and should be studied.

“It is better to get the job done right than the job done fast,” Whipple said.

Kleeb said the Social Security time requirement was for the parent not the child.

With a preliminary vote at 44-72 to defeat the bill, a Call of the House was ordered and members locked into the House chamber in an effort by Republican leaders to find an additional 19 votes. Under the rules, absent lawmakers in the state could be compelled to vote.

Brownback reportedly made calls to House members, who were only permitted to leave the chamber to use the bathroom. State senators were also pressed to urge House members to vote yes. After several hours three House members changed their votes from yes to no.

Shortly before midnight central time, House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey (R-Louisberg) pleaded with his colleagues to vote yes, saying budget cuts loomed.

“None of us at this moment will comprehend what will happen to our citizens,” he said.

House Rules Committee Chairman John Barker (R-Abilene) then announced that the House could not suspend the midnight deadline to end the session for the day, due to the House being on final action on a bill. Barker said the House would have to leave at midnight for eight hours and come back in the same spot where they left off. This procedure places the state in the unique position of having the House suspended in the 111th day while the Senate will enter the 112th day on Thursday.

House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City) then argued for lawmakers to flip to no and restart the tax process. Following Burrough’s speech, 12 Republican lawmakers flipped from yes to no as the House started an eight hour break.