WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As lawmakers grind through many different ideas on how to fill a deficit of about $900 million, the idea of taxes has come up again.
Part of the latest plan to be debated includes taxes on tattoos, pet care, lawn and garden care and the so-called sin taxes on alcohol.
“What do we do? I mean, we’ve tried everything on the books,” says Vikki Le, with 4 Aces Smoke & Liquor in Wichita. “If more taxes are added again for the customers it’s something I have to pass along.”
Le says the state has raised taxes on alcohol in the past, so the concept is nothing new. But, she says, it’s disappointing.
Some consumers of the so-called sin items, like tobacco, agree.
“I have a cigarette rolling machine at home and it takes me about five minutes to roll a pack,” says tobacco consumer and Wichita resident, Justin Anderson. “So, I Netflix and roll my cigarettes at home.”
Anderson says the cost of rolling his own smokes is less than half the cost of a pack of cigarettes.
But some lawmakers say new taxes are inevitable as they try to fix the budget. And lawmakers are not only trying to fix the budget, but they are also debating a school finance system, that will cost more money.
“Well, we are at the point where we have to do something, certainly,” says Senate member John Doll, a Republican from Garden City. “Today is just posturing for the most part, I think. It’s frustrating because our work should have been done. We should be home by now. And personally I think we need to get a tax plan first to know what kind of money we’re dealing with.”
Doll says the Governor earlier this legislative session vetoed a tax plan to fill the budget hole. Doll also says the 2012 tax breaks could be coming to an end at the end of this session. He says the concept of doing away with the tax breaks from 2012 has been included in nearly every tax plan that has been presented.
Some Republican lawmakers say it’s the 2012 tax breaks that have played a large role in the Kansas budget deficit.
“Some would say that money (tax breaks to businesses) amounts to about one billion a year,” says Doll. “But we still have to find money outside of those LLC’s (tax breaks) to make this budget work.”
The plan to get a new school budget finance system is being debated. Lawmakers say you can expect debate on a tax plan, very soon.
“Oh, yes, it’s going to be soon,” says Democrat House member, Tom Sawyer. “I feel like we are close on some of the tax ideas.And, hey, nobody likes new taxes or bringing back old taxes that were cut. But we have to be responsible. And, don’t forget, we still have to find extra money for (public schools) K-12.”
The Kansas Supreme court has said it will force schools to close if lawmakers do not do their job and add “adequate” funding to K-12 public schools.
Doll is not confident the session will wrap up soon. He says he called his wife to let her know he may be in Topeka a bit longer.
“I told my wife it would be another two weeks because we can’t seem to come together on a tax bill,” says Doll. “And whatever we pass on school finance the courts will tell us if it’s good enough and if it’s not we will be back up here in a special session. The courts are going to make us get it right.”
KSN asked the Governor’s office if Sam Brownback would sign anything that includes new taxes, or bringing back old taxes.
A spokesperson said the Governor will consider all legislation brought to his desk.
KSN is following lawmakers as they continue their work.