The Kansas House of Representatives opted to prolong the morass of this year's legislative session by adjourning for Memorial Day weekend before lunchtime. But not before issuing a stinging rebuke of Gov. Sam Brownback's tax proposal.
House members on Friday morning overwhelmingly voted 5-109 against a tax bill that the Senate passed at Brownback's behest.
If the measure had passed, it would have kept the state sales tax rate at 6.3 percent, rather than drop it to 5.7 - as the law required.
Former Gov. Mark Parkinson in 2010 increased the sales tax to 6.3 percent to keep the state afloat during a crushing economic crisis. That measure passed with the promise that the rate would return to 5.7 percent by this year.
But Brownback wants to make the higher tax rate permanent. He has said publicly that the prospect of the Kansas Supreme Court ordering the state to spend hundreds of millions more for education finance (that lawsuit's outcome is pending) necessitates the higher sales-tax rate, though the state's budget imbalance is also due to income-tax cuts he championed.
Still, Brownback equates his sales-tax elevation to tax relief.
"My administration is focused intensely on pro-growth reform, with a guiding philosophy that tax relief will increase private sector jobs and personal income for Kansas families and businesses," the governor said in a statement. "The tax proposal passed by the Kansas Senate Thursday night lowers the tax burden on all Kansans. I appreciate the work by the Kansas Legislature this session and will sign this pro-growth tax bill should lawmakers vote to send it to me."
This is only partly true. The Senate's tax plan reduces some income-tax rates and drops the sales-tax rate on groceries. But the Senate's tax plan also phases out various itemized tax deductions. And keeping the sales tax at 6.3 percent when it was supposed to drop by half a percent on June 1 amounts to a tax increase.
House members, at least, seem to see it that way. They're up for election next year and don't want to have to explain a tax increase - which is what the Senate's tax plan does with respect to the sales tax - to their constituents.