Senate OK’s historic Kansas tax hike

The Senate joined the House by approving a session-ending bill Friday making adjustments to legislation imposing a state tax increase of $432 million next year that constitutes the largest in Kansas history.

Public begging and private bullying that defined the session’s votes on tax policy prompted adoption by the bare minimum — 21 votes in the Senate, 63 in the House — of  legislation  endorsed by Gov. Sam Brownback and designed to respond to a projected $400 million deficit in the fiscal year starting July 1.

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Deadlock broken; tax increases pass

The House passed the largest tax increase in Kansas history in the dark hours of Friday morning – clawing past tears and fatigue to endorse a measure to fill the state’s budget hole after the governor warned of imminent fiscal calamity.

The Republican-dominated chamber approved two bills that in combination would hike sales taxes and cigarette taxes, while limiting the power of cities and counties to raise property taxes.

Lawmakers have been struggling for weeks to find a path forward that raises the approximately $400 million in revenue the state needs to balance its budget. The House finally crossed the finish line just after 4 a.m. after a debate that began at about 1 a.m., and after the vote was left open two hours.

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OP Mayor slams state’s budget proposal

By Tim Carpenter
timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

Overland Park’s mayor denounced a bill scheduled for action Monday in the House requiring voter approval of budget increases advanced by city and county officials tied to escalation in property taxes.

Mayor Carl Gerlach said the legislation passed by the Senate on Sunday night could damage the ability of local units of government to properly support police and fire services or maintain public infrastructure.

“This is not the typical thoughtful policymaking process Kansans expect or deserve,” Gerlach said. “At the 11th hour and under great pressure to complete a state budget, the Kansas Senate enacted a major local budgetary policy decision impacting all cities and counties across the state without any committee discussion, without any public input, without a full understanding of the implications of this legislation.”

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Legislative process is being subverted in Kansas

From Dave Trabert
cjonline.com

A very sad but not uncommon process is playing out right now in the Kansas Legislature that is designed to avoid transparency and prevent citizens from knowing exactly where their elected representatives stand on important issues.

Kansans expect that all 125 members of the House of Representatives and all 40 state senators will participate in a robust debate in arriving at each chamber’s respective tax plan, but efforts are underway to subvert the full legislative process and put control in the hands of just 6 people and those who appoint them. Continue reading

Kansas lawmakers move to shrink civil service as Senate tackles pensions, power plant bills

By John Hanna
The Associated Press

Kansas is expected to reduce the number of state workers covered by its civil service system after the Republican-dominated Legislature approved a bill Tuesday making it easier for state agencies to reclassify jobs.

The Senate approved the civil service bill, 24-16. The House approved the same measure in March, and it goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The bill embodies an initiative from his administration.

Passage of the measure came as senators also approved a measure on public pensions and a bill requiring legislators to sign off on any plan from the state for complying with a new federal rule designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Following is a look at significant legislative developments Tuesday: To read the entire article, click here.

Analysis…

GOP lawmakers pursue revision
of Kansas business break,
despite Brownback stance

By John Hanna
The Associated Press

Top Republican legislators in Kansas appear increasingly ready to reconsider a business tax break that’s been a cherished economic policy for GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, possibly making it more difficult to close a projected budget shortfall.

Brownback is clear that he wants to preserve an exemption from personal income taxes for 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers. He calls the policy, enacted in 2012 as part of a larger package of income tax cuts, the “small business accelerator” and describes it as a catalyst for job growth. Continue reading

Other views…

Kansas shows us what could happen if Republicans win in 2016

By Catherine Rampell
The Washington Post

No more pencils, no more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks.

Usually this is an anthem of celebration, of respite from the angst-inducing strictures of K-12 schooling. But this year, across Kansas, the jingle is coming a little sooner than expected, and with mournful undertones.

At least eight Kansas school districts recently announced that they’re starting summer break early this year, and not because kids have already learned so much that they deserve a few extra days off. It’s because these schools ran out of money, thanks to state leaders’ decision to ax education spending midyear to plug an ever-widening hole in their budget. Continue reading

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