Archive for Friday, May 24, 2013

Kansas House rejects Senate-approved tax package, adjourns for holiday weekend

May 24, 2013

Topeka — The Kansas House on Friday overwhelmingly rejected the Senate-approved tax plan and adjourned until Tuesday.

The move prompted criticism from Senate leaders. "The Legislature doesn't deserve to go home for the weekend," Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson said. Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, had urged legislators to work through the weekend.

But House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, criticized Senate leaders, saying they were playing politics instead of trying to work out compromises. "This is an agonizing process," he told his caucus.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the session "is a pure meltdown."

On Thursday, the Senate, with only Republican support, approved a bill that would increase taxes by $879 million over 5 years. The package would make permanent the 6.3 percent state sales tax, which under current law is set to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1.

The measure also would lower the sales tax on groceries to 4.95 percent. Over 5 years, it would also phase out popular itemized deductions and decrease standard deductions. But it would also reduce state income tax rates to 3.5 percent from 4.9 percent at the top rate, and to 2.5 percent from 3 percent at the bottom. Gov. Sam Brownback also supported the bill.

House GOP leaders, however, oppose extending the full 6.3 percent sales tax, and have different proposals on lowering income taxes.

When the Senate plan came up for a vote in the House on Friday, it failed, 109-5.

Friday was the 91st day of the session. Earlier this year, GOP leaders said they wanted to end the session after 80 days. The Kansas Constitution specifies a 90-day session, but it allows legislators to meet longer.

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