TOPEKA — Senate President Susan Wagle appointed two Democrats and seven Republicans to a special committee Wednesday to develop a bill redirecting a revenue windfall to the state treasury associated with reform of the federal tax code.
Wagle, the Wichita Republican who expressed interest in running for U.S. Senate, took the unusual step of appointing herself as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Code Implementation. The president cut out only one member of the permanent Senate tax committee — Sen. Caryn Tyson, the GOP chairwoman.
"The unexpected windfall directly linked to the federal tax cuts belongs to taxpayers, not government," Wagle said. "We want to enhance economic opportunity and increase our state’s competitiveness, not force an unintended tax increase onto hardworking Kansans."
Tyson said she didn't agree with Wagle's personnel decision on the special committee. Tyson said she was preparing her committee to craft a comprehensive windfall bill providing tax benefits to individuals and corporations.
"It absolutely makes no sense," Tyson said, referring to the takeover by Wagle. "It appears that she wants credit for moving that legislation. Otherwise, why would she do what she's done? Her actions look as if someone's posturing."
In the 2018 legislative session, Tyson ushered through the Senate a bill — not endorsed by the House — comparable to what she expected to be passed by the Senate in 2019.
"I want the legislation. I believe it's needed for the state of Kansas. I've been working on it all last year and when we were out of session in the summer and fall," Tyson said. "If we get the legislation, that's the big picture. It's not about me. It's about getting good policy."
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he wasn't surprised Wagle and Tyson were at odds with each other. He said he didn't anticipate removal of Tyson from the picture.
"There's been bad blood between those two for a number of years," Hensley said.
Senate Republicans expect to deliver more than $100 million to companies and persons who would be denied tax relief without amendments in state tax law. The federal law signed by President Donald Trump raised the federal standard deduction in the 2018 tax year. Many Kansans would prefer to take advantage of that federal deduction while also continuing to rely on itemized deductions on state income tax returns.
In addition, businesses with foreign income are interested in reform to limit state tax liability when repatriating earnings to Kansas.
The itemization piece could total $60 million, while the corporate benefits have been estimated as high as $75 million.
"The sole purpose of this committee is to enact the necessary legislation that will provide relief to Kansas families and businesses, allowing them to fully benefit from the Trump tax cuts," Wagle said.
The special committee also will include Republican Sens. Dan Kerschen, of Garden Plain; Julia Lynn, of Olathe; Jeff Longbine, of Emporia; Mike Petersen, of Wichita; Larry Alley, of Winfield; Dan Goddard, of Parsons; and Democratic Sens. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, and Vic Miller, of Topeka.