Kansas set to cut taxes again, this time with Dems joining

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — With surplus state revenues rolling in every month, the Republican-controlled Kansas legislature is poised to cut taxes again just a decade after a GOP governor launched a tax experiment. tax cuts that became nationally notorious for the budget deficits that followed.

And this time, Democrats are not warning that major tax cuts will cripple the budget, jeopardizing funding for schools or social services. Instead, they are arguing over how taxes should be cut, favoring Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposals to lower the cost of groceries and provide a $250 rebate. Kansas residents who filed state tax returns last year.

Lawmakers could cut taxes by nearly $1.5 billion over the next three years, starting in July. Before starting their annual spring break last week, lawmakers approved cuts worth about $310 million. over three years. When lawmakers meet again on April 25 to wrap up the year’s deals, two bills with other bigger cuts await final votes.

Kelly still invokes voters’ memories of the GOP’s past tax-cutting experience when she re-elected this year, but she and her fellow Democrats also argue that Kansas has plenty of surplus money to afford its great proposals. By resisting them, Republican lawmakers sometimes play the same card as Kelly.

“I wanted to be a little moderate on the amount of tax cuts we’ve imposed,” Republican West Kansas state Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Taxation Committee, said Monday. “I don’t want to be back here in five or six years trying to raise taxes because we went and enacted too many permanent tax cuts that we couldn’t support.”

When lawmakers opened their annual session in January, their research staff told them Kansas was on track to end June 2023 with a record $3.8 billion in cash reserves. Since then, the state has continued to collect more taxes than it anticipated — it’s posted surpluses for 20 straight months — and lawmakers in both parties are frustrated that bigger tax bills haven’t were adopted earlier.

“We’re not making it a priority to return that money to Kansas taxpayers,” Senate Tax Committee Chairman Caryn Tyson, a conservative Republican from southeast Kansas, said in a speech before lawmakers adjourned.

The state’s strong streak of better-than-expected monthly tax collections began immediately after bipartisan majorities were reversed in the Legislative Assembly. most of the Republican tax-cutting experiment begun in 2012 under GOP Governor Sam Brownback. In the five years that followed, the state met its tax collection forecast only three times.

Kelly’s first TV commercial of his re-election campaign, which began airing over the weekend, briefly features a photo of Brownback. 30-Second Spot Recalls GOP’s ‘Reckless Tax Experiment’ of his administration before adding, “so Kansans voted for change” by electing Kelly in 2018.

Yet Kelly also continues to oppose the end of the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries, save taxpayers $1.4 billion on their grocery bills over the next three years. Announcing another strong month for tax collections in March — a 13.4% surplus or $80 million in collections — Kelly said the numbers showed Kansas could get rid of the tax.

Kelly’s likely GOP opponent in November, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also called for reducing or eliminating the tax as well. One of two bills still awaiting a final vote would phase out the tax over three years. Democrats are annoyed that it’s not happening this fall.

“So we don’t have any money?” Now come on, guys,” State Rep. Jim Gartner of Topeka, the top Democrat on the House Tax Committee, said in an interview.

Republicans largely ignored Kelly’s proposal for a $250 income tax refund, a one-time break worth $460 million. Some have argued it’s a political gimmick, while Smith says it’s better to do something “in perpetuity” for taxpayers.

Republicans have pursued two dozen other smaller revenue, sales and property tax proposals, split between the bill already on its way to Kelly’s office and one of two measures still awaiting final votes.

“For me, it’s just about ripping the band-aid off. Do you do it all at once or do you do it slowly? said Smith. “Normally I’m the type of guy who just wants to rip that sucker off, but you know, if you do that and you’re not completely healed, it creates more problems, so I want to make sure we do that. do it in a fiscally responsible way.

Democrats scoff at the comments, saying Republicans simply want to deny Kelly a big political victory before the November election.

“It’s all politics,” Gartner said.

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