While another roadblock was placed in front of the Kansas Legislature to start the day on Tuesday, the governing body eventually found the momentum it needed to plow through it to help pass a new tax plan in an effort to balance the state budget.
Once the tax bill was passed Monday night, Governor Sam Brownback immediately announced his intention to veto the bill and officially did so Tuesday morning. Based on the results of Monday's action, it appeared neither the House nor the Senate had the two-thirds votes necessary to overturn Brownback's decision, but the former voted 88-31 when the bill was returned to it Tuesday night, while the Senate got the exact margin it needed (27-13) for the Legislature to successfully defeat the veto.
"For two-thirds of both houses to basically reject the governor's tax plan, that has to be deflating for him," said Rep. Tim Hodge (D-North Newton).
Under the plan passed by the House and Senate, the state will increase its personal income tax rates and end an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners — rollbacks championed by Brownback in 2012. Legislators expect the changes to raise $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years to close projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019, and also provide additional funds for public schools.
Already 109 days into a budgeted 100-day legislative session on Tuesday (one of the longest in state history), the clock was ticking — both based on expectations and work still to be done —as administration noted a budget needed to be passed by June 17 in order for state employees to continue getting paid once the new fiscal year begins in July.
Time constraints were part of the reason Hodge pointed to for why the override went through on Tuesday, and while Hodge himself felt part of that pressure, he was pleased with the final result after passing on the tax bill in its previous two iterations.
"What crystallized was the fact that it was June 6 and we needed to get a budget together, and those of us who voted for this package as opposed to the three versions before, we held out to make sure that deductions and credits, especially the child care tax credit, was in there," Hodge said, "so that we would take the burden off the working Kansans and make a fair income tax system again.
"It's not fair for a family to be paying higher income tax when the boss of the company doesn't pay any," Hodge said. "That's not right, but that's what they passed in 2012, and added to over the last four years, including raising sales tax on food to the highest level in the country."
On top of rolling back the tax exemptions for businesses, the new tax plan will see the return of a third income tax rate for the wealthiest filers (another item cut in 2012). The top income tax rate will be 5.7 percent in the new plan, as opposed to 4.6 percent now.
Glad to get more deductions in as part of the tax plan that ultimately passed, Hodge knows the impact of this action by the Legislature will not be felt immediately, but the elimination of the income tax exemptions will start to make a difference within six to 12 months.
Beyond that, it will take some time before the money is paid into the state revenue streams, but the Legislature has taken the first step. In the eyes of Hodge, it is now time to move on to the "next chapter," taking aim at the aforementioned food sales tax, accelerating tax credits and continuing to make the income tax system fair for all Kansas residents.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.