A divide between rural and urban lawmakers appears to be holding up work in the Senate’s tax committee. The panel has had two meetings where there was little agreement on tax plans. As Stephen Koranda reports, lawmakers are looking for ways to fill a budget gap of more than $400 million.
Senator Jeff Melcher is a Republican from Leawood in Johnson County. He says the Johnson County lawmakers on the tax committee will not support any major tax plans until another issue is settled.
The Kansas House has approved a measure that would decrease penalties for marijuana possession, allow the limited use of medical marijuana and study the use of industrial hemp.
House members voted 81-36 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate for consideration.
First- and second-time marijuana offenders without serious prior convictions would avoid jail time under the bill. That would decrease the population in the state's overcrowded prisons and save more than $1.7 million over the next two fiscal years, according to state estimates.
A Kansas House Committee is looking at rolling back a key part of the 2012 tax cut. It's specifically aimed at the tax break that allows more than 300,000 business owners to pay zero income tax on their business income. The goal of the tax break is boosting the economy. Republican Representative Mark Hutton says the tax cut for businesses isn't paying off.
“The individual tax savings are not significant enough to spur employment growth or lure companies to our state, yet it’s costing our state over $200 million,” says Hutton.
The House Tax Committee is considering a plan to raise the sales tax in Kansas to help fill a budget hole. During a hearing on Wednesday, no one spoke in favor of the plan and only one person signed up to speak against the bill. The Kansas Policy Institute opposes the tax increase and says lawmakers should instead consider more budget cuts.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Marvin Kleeb, says raising the state sales tax from 6.15 to 6.5 percent would provide a quicker infusion of cash.
The chairman of the House Tax Committee believes lawmakers will need to rely mostly on taxes to fill a hole in the Kansas budget. The state faces a $400 million shortfall next fiscal year. Republican Representative Marvin Kleeb says they’re hoping to avoid cuts to K-12 education, which accounts for half the state budget.
“I don’t think there’s a tremendous amount of expenditure improvement that can happen. We held schools harmless and I think a lot of us feel we made a promise to schools to keep that block grant funding stable for the next two years,” says Kleeb.