The Kansas Senate is at a stand still, and Senate leadership says there will be no more debate on other legislation until a budget bill is passed.
Last week, it appeared the Senate had enough votes to pass a tax increase plan that included raising income taxes and rolling back the LLC-tax exemption approved in 2012. That bill was to be worked in tandem with legislation to cut $128 million in state aid to public schools this year.
Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook said she received many requests asking her to vote against the Senate tax proposal and tax increases.
“People are very upset that the legislature would ask for more money from citizens without attempting to cut spending instead,” Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, said.
The Senate tax proposal raises taxes on more than 330,000 small businesses by rolling back an LLC-exemption adopted in 2012. It also increases income tax rates for most Kansans, including adding some lower income earners to the tax rolls.
Under the proposal, married couples filing jointly who earn less than $30,000 would see their taxes raised by 15 percent, as the tax rate would increase from 2.6 percent to 3 percent next year. For those making more than $30,000, the proposal would increase rates by 6.5 percent. The legislation also imposes a new income tax of 2.6 percent on married individuals filing jointly with taxable incomes of less than $12,500 and on individuals with taxable income below $5,000.
Olathe Republican Julia Lynn wrote in her weekly legislative update that she is receiving more calls opposed to tax increases than calls against proposed cuts to school spending.
“Curiously, my rather voluminous phone calls and emails are running 3-1 against further taxes and right at 2-1 against cuts to school funding,” Lynn wrote.
Mailers Target 2 Senators
Pressure against tax increases is showing up in mailboxes as well. Americans for Prosperity-Kansas sent mailers to constituents of Republican Sens. Susan Wagle of Wichita, and John Skubal of Overland Park. Both are on record saying they are willing to increase taxes.
“Not only is she going after small businesses, which will hurt job creation and growth, she plans to raise taxes on Kansas’ poorest taxpayers by a whopping 11 percent,” a mailer sent to voters in Wagle’s district reads. “The plan will raise taxes on all Kansans, including low and middle income families.”
There may be more mailers where that one came from, AFP-Kansas State Director Jeff Glendening said.
“I think as long as they continue down the path that some of them are on, a path that’s really a legacy of liberal tax and spend policy, they should expect more mailers coming,” Glendening said.
Mission Hills Republican Sen. Barbara Bollier told a public radio podcast, Statehouse Blend Kansas, that she doesn’t feel threatened by the mailers, though none have targeted her personally.
“They told me all this money from the Koch brothers, millions of dollars to attack me in a campaign,” Bollier said. “I’m not here to be threatened. I’m here to get it fixed.”
AFP-Kansas isn’t the Koch brothers, Glendening said.
“If we spent millions of dollars on mailers, I think everybody in the state would have several copies in their mailboxes,” he said. “Also, we’re not the Koch brothers. We have 50,000 people across Kansas, and all of their last names aren’t ‘Koch.’”
House Takes Up Budget Issues
For now, tax and budget debate appears to have moved to the House where, today, the Appropriations Committee agreed to forward a bill to use idle fund investment money, or the pooled money investment fund, to back fill a $300 million budget shortfall this year.
Glendening didn’t rule out sending mailers targeting House members if they vote to approve tax increases.
“I have legislators that are annoyed that we are asking our folks to talk to them about tax increases, because they are,” Glendening said. “They are emailing. They’re contacting. They’re doing whatever they can to make their voices heard…Legislators need to cut spending.”