Kansas lawmakers return to debate over tax cuts; scrutinized cards

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Kansas Governor Laura Kelly speaks during an event at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas on Thursday, March 24, 2022. The Democratic governor vetoed a Republican measure to ban transgender athletes from sports and a GOP measure aimed at making it easier for parents to try to remove materials from public school classrooms and libraries. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

PA

Kansas lawmakers ended spring break on Monday with more leeway to cut taxes and increase state spending than they had a few weeks ago, but could face another debate on political redistricting.

The Republican-controlled Legislature reconvened after a three-week hiatus to wrap up its business for the year, though state court cases involving the new political boundaries drawn by GOP lawmakers are creating a some uncertainty as to the length of their session. They have yet to finalize a budget of more than $22 billion for the 12 months that begin July 1, and Republican leaders and Democratic Governor Laura Kelly are at odds over how to cut taxes now that the state is teeming with taxes. ‘money.

Kelly and lawmakers also took the time to honor the University of Kansas NCAA championship men’s basketball team. The team’s trophy was put on public display in the Statehouse for fans to pose with.

A state court judge in Wyandotte County on Monday struck down new congressional districts for partisan gerrymandering, and the attorney general’s office almost immediately promised to appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court. The same court is also required to review the lines of legislative districts by the end of May.

A new budget forecast for the state government released last week was even more optimistic than a rose by state officials and academic economists released in November, predicting an additional $760 million in tax revenue over the next 15 coming months. But forecasters have also warned that the highest inflation in the United States since the early 1980s is fueling much of this.

Republican lawmakers are set to cut income, sales and property taxes by a total of $1.5 billion over three years. The bulk of those cuts relate to two measures that are ready for final votes in the House and Senate, and Senate Speaker Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said those votes could happen by the middle of the week.

Kelly recently stepped up her campaign to eliminate the 6.5% sales tax on groceries, which is one of the highest in the country. Last week, she revived a proposal that GOP lawmakers ignored that would give a $250 rebate to every Kansas resident who filed a 2020 tax return last year.

“There’s no reason they can’t talk about it and push this through,” Kelly told reporters Monday at the Statehouse, referring to his sales tax proposal. “Same with the income tax refund.”

But Republicans view the refund proposal as a gimmick designed to send checks to taxpayers just before the fall election, with Kelly facing a tough re-election race.

GOP lawmakers have proposed to phase out the sales tax on groceries over three years, beginning Jan. 1. In recent days, they responded to criticism from Democrats that it was not enough by noting that a provision was inserted into a tax bill that Kelly vetoed. in 2019 and would have phased out the tax on groceries starting Jan. 1, according to data compiled by legislative researchers.

The bill Kelly vetoed in 2019 also contained income tax cuts that fellow Democrats opposed, and the governor said in her veto message that the state needs a policy. “thoughtful” fiscal policy, not “a hasty attempt to achieve an immediate political victory”.

As Republicans question the 2019 veto, Kelly’s most recent ones are also a problem for them.

Kelly vetoed GOP measures to ban transgender athletes from female and female sports in K-12 schools and colleges; make it easier for parents to try to remove materials from public school classrooms and libraries; impose new restrictions on food assistance for able-bodied adults without children; and prohibit cities and counties from banning, restricting or taxing plastic straws, bags and food containers. None of the measures passed with the necessary two-thirds majorities in both houses to override a veto.

The biggest remaining budget issue is funding for public K-12 schools, with more than $6 billion at stake. Some school districts and the State Board of Education want to increase spending on schools by $155 million. special education programs.

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