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Tax Plan, School Funding Challenges Could Mean Marathon Session For Kansas Lawmakers

J. Schafer
Kansas Public Radio/File photo

Kansas Lawmakers aren’t yet in record territory, but they’re facing challenges that could make the 2017 session among the longest ever.

Lawmakers must close a budget gap that now stands just south of $1 billion -- and increase funding for public schools by enough to get them off the hook with the Kansas Supreme Court.

Big challenges, but particularly tough now for a couple of reasons: First is the mismatch between conservative Republican leaders and a majority coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Second is Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto pen. It’s all that’s keeping lawmakers from repealing most of his signature income tax cuts.

The stalemate is frustrating many, including Tom Holland, the top Democrat on the Senate tax committee.

“I mean, if he’s not going to lead he just needs to get the hell out of the way," Holland says.

But that’s not going to happen. In recent days, Republican leaders have been working on a package of smaller gas and cigarette tax increases they say Brownback might be willing to sign.

Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.