Kansas legislators abandon Brownback’s tax experiment

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Kansas legislators abandon Brownback’s tax experiment
Kansas legislators abandon Brownback’s tax experiment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas legislators have repudiated the tax-cutting experiment that brought Gov. Sam Brownback national attention, with even fellow Republicans voting to override his veto of a plan reversing many of the income tax reductions he championed in recent years as a way to fix the cash-strapped state’s budget.

The conservative Republican governor still touts the income tax cuts enacted in 2012 and 2013 as pro-growth policies. But voters soured last year on the governor’s policies, ousting two dozen of his allies from the Legislature and giving more power to Democrats and moderate Republicans who then backed this year’s tax increase.

The Legislature’s action leaves his main political legacy in tatters.

“He believes – still believes – in this, and that’s OK. I don’t,” said Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a conservative Kansas City-area Republican who supported the first round of tax cuts in 2012 but voted to override the veto. “I’ve made many, many bad decisions in my business career, as many bad as good, but I’ve always backed up and mopped up my mess. That’s what I’m doing now.”

Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019. The new plan is expected to raise $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years by increasing personal income tax rates and ending an exemption for 330,000-plus farmers and business owners.

Under the new tax laws, Kansas will return to having a third tax income tax rate for its wealthiest filers, something cuts in 2012 eliminated. The top rate will be 5.7 percent, as opposed to 4.6 percent now.

The tax increase was designed to also cover extra aid to the state’s 286 local public school districts. The state Supreme Court ruled in March that education funding was inadequate. The state spends about $4 billion a year on its schools, and lawmakers passed a plan Monday night to phase in a $293 million increase in education funding over two years.

In his short veto message Tuesday afternoon, Brownback said: “We can and we must balance our budget without negatively harming Kansas families.”

The House overrode the veto that night with an 88-31 vote, four votes more than the necessary two-thirds majority. The Senate earlier overrode Brownback’s veto with a vote of 27-13, exactly the two-thirds majority required.

Brownback’s remaining legislative allies, like him, suggest that the tax increase will ruin the economy. They argued that Kansas has done little to control its spending – a point many Democrats and GOP moderates disputed.

“This level of taxation is wholly unnecessary,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area conservative Republican. “What we’re doing is fleecing our constituents.”

Lawmakers planned to return to the Statehouse on Wednesday to work on a budget and other last-minute issues, in an attempt to end one of the longest legislative sessions in state history.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Gov. Sam Brownback gives a statement to the media Wednesday, June 7, 2017, concerning the Senate and House overriding his veto of a bill raising Kansas income taxes by $1.2 billion over two years. The governor left the news conference without taking questions. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
Gov. Sam Brownback gave a statement to the media Wednesday, June 7, 2017, concerning the Senate and House overriding his veto of a bill raising Kansas income taxes by $1.2 billion over two years. The governor left the news conference without taking questions. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
FILE – In this Feb. 10, 1966, file photo, a general views of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Vietnam in Washington. George Kennan, former ambassador to Moscow, is at the witness table. Committee members, from left, are: Sens. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., Frank Carlson, R-Kansas, Bourke Hickenlooper, R-Iowa, Chairman William Fulbright, D-Ark., Wayne Morse, D-Ore., Albert Gore, D-Tenn., Frank Lausche, D-Ohio, Frank Church, D-Idaho, Joseph Clark, Jr., D-Pa., and Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. Washington knows how to do big hearings. Dramatic congressional hearings are something of a Washington art form, a rite of democracy carefully crafted for the cameras. Suspense is building as fired FBI Director James Comey prepares to claim the microphone June 8, 2017, in an austere, modern hearing room of the Hart Senate Office Building. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin, File)
Kansas state Rep. K.C. Ohaebosim, left, D-Wichita, makes a point in a conversation with Rep. Boog Highberger, right, D-Lawrence, before a House vote on overriding Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a tax increase to fix the state budget, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Topeka, Kan. Legislators have overridden the veto, and Ohaebosim and Highberger supported the effort. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Kansas Senate tax committee Chairwoman Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, speaks against overriding Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill that would have increased income taxes to fix the state budget and provide additional funds for public schools, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. The bill would have raised $1.2 billion over two years by increasing income tax rates and ending an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Kansas state Reps. Troy Waymaster, left, R-Bunker Hill, and Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, confer before the House’s debate on overriding Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill increasing income taxes to fix the state budget, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Topeka, Kan. Both Jennings and Waymaster, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, voted to override. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
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