AP: Kansas House has dust-up over governor's tax plan

2/9/2013

TOPEKA (AP) — Democrats publicly swiped at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, engineering a unanimous vote against his new tax plan as the Kansas House debated a bill correcting technical flaws in last year's tax-cutting law.

TOPEKA (AP) — Democrats publicly swiped at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, engineering a unanimous vote against his new tax plan as the Kansas House debated a bill correcting technical flaws in last year's tax-cutting law.

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag dismissed the 118-0 vote against the governor's latest proposals as "utterly meaningless." Leaders of the House's GOP supermajority said the vote wasn't definitive because the chamber's Taxation Committee is still reviewing the governor's plan and considering alternatives.

Democrats defended their maneuver, saying they were trying to stimulate debate — and educate constituents — about unpopular proposals Brownback is pushing this year to follow up on the aggressive income tax cuts enacted last year.

Rep. Nile Dillmore, a Wichita Democrat who serves on the tax committee, offered Brownback's tax plan as an amendment to the technical cleanup bill. Without any changes, that bill won first-round approval and is expected to pass easily Monday when the House takes a final vote.

"Today is your opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, to step forward and debate fully and openly what you think of that tax plan and to offer your suggestions for how we can make it better," Dillmore said.

Brownback is proposing to phase in another round of cuts in individual income tax rates over four years. But to stabilize the budget, he's proposing to eliminate two popular income tax deductions for homeowners.

He's also proposing to keep the state sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate. Three years ago, that was boosted to balance the budget, with lawmakers and former Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson promising it would drop to 5.7 percent in July.

Even some of Brownback's GOP allies are resisting his new proposals. They don't like the fact that his revenue-raising proposals would take effect immediately, while taxpayers wouldn't see most of the benefits from the next round of income tax rate cuts for several years.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a conservative Stilwell Republican, said ongoing work won't be affected by Democrats' "gamesmanship."

"The stunt the Democrats pulled on the House floor today was nothing more than Washington-style gotcha politics," Jones-Sontag said in an email statement.

The technical cleanup of last year's law is likely to move quickly. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Hutchinson Republican, said final passage in his chamber, which would send the measure to Brownback, could come next week.

Among other things, the technical fixes would eliminate a $2.5 million tax increase that the state inadvertently imposed for stockholders in bank holding companies last year, as they eliminated income taxes for the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other small businesses.

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