WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Lawmakers are on break for a week. But, there’s plenty of buzz about getting a fix for the Kansas budget deficit.
“Clearly, right now, my colleagues and I want a structural fix. We’re not in the mood to borrow money and use one-time money to prop-up a huge deficit. So we are going to be debating for a while,” says Republican Senate President Susan Wagle. “Clearly, we asked the governor before he made a decision to veto the bill, that if he were to veto it, that he would come up with a plan that was a structural fix. A new plan for his budget deficit. He vetoed it without another plan. Well, we have a structural imbalance right now.”
Governor Sam Brownback vetoed the latest budget and tax plan. The House passed an override of that veto. The Senate missed an override by three votes.
Wagle says she and other lawmakers have talked about putting together another plan to present early next week that could include cuts to the Kansas budget.
KSN asked President Wagle if she and the Governor have different views on fixing the Kansas budget.
“Yes, we do,” said Wagle. “And when you take the Governor’s proposal and look at what happens when he is out of office in two years from now, we absolutely tank. Because we use one-time money to prop up spending that we can’t afford.”
Some Democrat lawmakers say the tax breaks remain problematic for the Kansas budget, costing Kansas nearly $230 million a year. Governor Brownback has long maintained those tax breaks are the key to growing business in Kansas.
“The governor’s tax experiment included three pieces,” said Minority House Leader, Jim Ward, D-Wichita. “One, the LLC exception with 330,000 people who pay no state income tax. The glide path to zero which was a theory that we would eliminate income tax in state government, and the third thing is the highest brackets. The richest Kansans got a massive cut, of the elimination of the third bracket. In order to fix it and a major majority, a super majority of legislators say we’ve got to fix all three parts.”
KSN asked the governor’s office what comes next for a budget fix.
“Governor Brownback’s balanced budget proposal tweaks the small business income tax cut by charging doctors, lawyers, and accountants through business registration fees and reinstating income taxes on passive income that generally does not lead to job creation. Kansas pioneered this idea, and honing the policy makes sense,” said Melika Willoughby, Gov. Sam Brownback’s communications director.
Wagle says lawmakers came close to vetoing the governor’s veto of the latest budget fix. But, she adds, she did not vote for an override of the governor’s veto because of some parts of the tax plan that included raising some taxes.
KSN asked Wagle if she is fundamentally against raising taxes.
“Absolutely, however, we bit off more than we can chew in 2012. We have gone from a very high rate, one of the highest in the nation on income tax of 6.45, to 4.6 on the high rate, and we’ve gone from 3.5 to 2.7 and the governor has also taken a lot of low-income wagers totally off the income tax rolls ,” said Wagle. “We cut taxes more than we could afford, and we didn’t have (spending) cuts along. We had cuts, we’ve had some cuts. But. the legislature has kept spending at a level, a consistent level. We haven’t increased spending since those cuts have happened. And clearly, we are going to need some cuts, and some borrowing and a little bit more taxing to get through this massive hole.”
Ward says if the Senate brings up a new tax plan that includes massive cuts, the plan will not likely get enough votes. He believes lawmakers may well end up with a similar tax plan that the governor recently vetoed.
“But, eventually we will get back to what was pretty much voted on and passed what the governor vetoed,” says Ward. “We will get a bill substantially similar with the same components with maybe a few tweaks.”
Wagle says she plans on talking to the governor about what comes next.
“It could be a long session, but both the House and Senate want to address the shortfall quickly. And I can assure you the Senate will have a bill out the next week,” says Wagle. “We meet with the governor weekly. My leadership team and the House leadership team meets with him. Hopefully, he understands how critical this situation is now, and hopefully, he will be working with us in the new plan.”