Kansas Lawmakers Override Tax Hike Veto


By John Celock

Kansas lawmakers have dealt Gov. Sam Brownback (R) a blow by repealing much of his signature tax cuts and overriding his veto of a $1.2 billion tax hike Tuesday night.

The state Legislature voted Tuesday to enact a new three-tier statewide income tax system, including a rollback of much of Brownback’s 2012 tax plan, including his famed “glide path to zero” in income tax policy. The move came less than 24 hours after Brownback announced his veto of the tax bill and multiple lawmakers changed their votes to override the governor. The state Senate voted 27-13 to override the veto, while the state House of Representatives voted 88-31 to override the veto.

“This is not the only solution, it is a solution and it is a solution we have carried this far,” House Taxation Committee Chairman Steven Johnson (R-Assaria) said during the debate.

In the Senate, Sen. Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson) was the only lawmaker to switch from opposing the bill on Monday to backing it’s passage on Tuesday, allowing for the Senate to achieve the bare minimum to pass the bill. On the House side, the 88 votes represented a switch from the 69 members who opposed the measure on Monday, allowing for four more votes than the 84 needed to override. Among the lawmakers who switched from no to yes in the House included House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Appropriations Committee Chairman Troy Waymaster (R-Baxter), Appropriations Committee Vice Chairwoman Erin Davis (R-Olathe) and Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita).

Hawkins and Waymaster both spoke about the need to support the House leadership in backing the tax plan. Waymaster noted that the plan would be able to fund the state budget.

The tax plan, including a debate over the future of the 2012 tax cuts, has been one of the defining issues of this year’s legislative session. The 2016 election of more Democrats and moderate Republicans spelled a potential end of the tax cuts, which have contributed to a downturn in state revenues. Lawmakers have grappled with the tax issue, along with crafting a new school finance plan following a state Supreme Court order and a new state budget. A school finance plan is sitting on Brownback’s desk, while lawmakers are slated to debate the budget this week.

Lawmakers have grappled with the tax plan most of the session, with the Legislature sustaining a Brownback veto of a tax hike in February. Over the weekend, the Legislature defeated a tax plan that was paired with the school finance plan. The tax debate has focused on the fate of the state’s LLC pass through loophole, whether it would be a two or three tier plan, the fate of sales tax exemptions, the state’s sales tax on food and whether economic development plans would be included in the final plan.

During the debates in the House and Senate Tuesday, supporters of the tax plan said that it was time to develop a new revenue model for the state, while opponents, who characterized the bill as the “largest tax hike in state history,” said that a new tax plan was not needed and that the budget should be cut.

“Unnecessarily and artificially expanding the deficit so somehow the people of this state will think we’re doing the right thing by imposing a billion dollars worth of taxes on them,” Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover) said.

Other opponents said that the plan was not sustainable and would require another tax hike in several years.