Published 3/13/2013 in News : PoliticsTOPEKA (AP) — Democrats in the Kansas Senate will push to decrease the state's sales tax and provide additional tax relief for the state's poorest residents when the chamber debates tax legislation, their leader said Tuesday.
Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka outlined proposals that would expand the scope of tax legislation the Senate will debate this week. He said Democrats will seek to preserve two major key tax policies that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback wants to scrap so that the state can stabilize its budget and still pursue further personal income tax cuts.
Brownback and many GOP legislators want to follow up on massive personal income tax cuts enacted last year by enacting a second round of rate reductions and positioning the state to phase out individual income tax cuts. To lessen potential budget problems, the Senate bill includes Brownback's proposals to cancel a drop in the sales tax scheduled for July and eliminate an income tax deduction for the interest on home mortgages.
Hensley said Democrats will propose keeping the deduction for homeowners and allowing the sales tax to decrease to 5.7 percent from 6.3 percent, as planned. In addition, Hensley said Democrats will offer amendments to the bill that would restore tax breaks eliminated last year for renters and families using child care, and restore a rebate poor families receive for the sales tax they pay on groceries.
Hensley said shared the details of the Democrats' plan with The Associated Press and said his party's goal is to ensure that this year's tax legislation doesn't benefit only wealthy Kansans.
"You've got clear choices here to make," Hensley said. "Do you want to lessen the burden for low-income people or cut taxes for the rich?"
Hensley acknowledged that Democrats, who are outnumbered 32-8 by Republicans in the Senate, won't propose any offsetting revenue-raising ideas. That's certain to open them to criticism that adopting their measures would cause budget problems.
"We knew it was coming," said Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee Chairman Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican. "I don't consider it constructive at all."
Hensley outlined the Senate Democrats' proposals hours before the House Taxation Committee took up a plan from Chairman Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, as an alternative to the governor's package.
Carlson also wants to allow the sales tax to drop as planned in July, something legislators promised three years ago when they boosted the sales tax to help balance the budget. He also proposes to phase out all income tax deductions as rates drop.
Unlike Brownback, who would guarantee a decline in income tax rates over the next four years, Carlson's plan wouldn't allow rates to drop each year unless state revenues grew by 2 percent first.
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