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Legislature Approves A Tax Plan — And Brownback Promises A Veto

Kansas News Service/File photo

On Day 108 of the Kansas Legislature’s session, lawmakers got down to business. They passed a school funding bill that adds nearly $300 million over two years for public education, then they approved a $1.2 billion tax plan.

But minutes after the Senate’s 26-14 tax plan vote, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would veto the package, which would put more than 300,00 small businesses and farmers back on the tax rolls, add a third income tax bracket and restore a number of tax deductions and credits.

In short, it dismantles Brownback’s signature accomplishment: his 2012 tax cuts.

In his veto message early Tuesday, the governor said the bill “will substantially damage job creation and leave our citizens poorer in the future.”

Neither the Senate or House vote, 69-52, provides a veto-proof majority. House members need 15 additional votes for a veto override, while the Senate needs one.

The Legislature approved a tax plan in February that Brownback vetoed, and the Senate fell short in a veto override attempt.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican from Fairway, said she wants Brownback to respect legislators’ hard work. More importantly, she said, at this late date the Legislature must wrap up.

“So it’s time," Rooker said. "It’s time, and I sincerely hope he puts his signature on the bill."

Sen. Barbara Bollier, a Republican from Mission Hills, said if the package is vetoed, she is looking at one person to change her vote.

“I think her name is going to be [Senate President] Susan Wagle, in my opinion,” Bollier said. “It better be.”

During debate of the tax plan, Democrats and moderate Republicans said the financial hole Brownback created with his tax cuts is just too deep.

“We have got to stop digging a hole. We went too far in 2012,” said Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat.

Democrats and moderate Republican pushed for a phased-in child care tax credit that will cost the state an estimated $9 million a year. While income tax rates will go up across the board, Sawyer said a family of four making $60,000 a year actually would save about $100 a year with the child tax credit.

Conservative Republicans were unhappy with the plan and their leadership. Some said GOP leaders caved to Democrats.

“I feel like we’re rolling over and giving up,” said Rep. Jack Thimesch of Cunningham.

Lawmakers still need to pass a budget, and leaders hope to wrap up what was planned to be a 100-day session by Friday.

Sam covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.