Brownback Endorses Kansas Senate’s Flat Tax Proposal

Apr 5, 2017

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. April 5.

Rather than propose a new tax plan, Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday opted to endorse a flat tax proposal that a Senate committee advanced this week.

“My goal has always been to make Kansas the best state in America to raise a family and grow a business,” Brownback said in a statement. “A flat tax accomplishes this goal by making taxes fair for everyone and encouraging economic growth.”

Agreeing to the Senate committee’s proposal is a change for the governor, because it would roll back a business income tax exemption key to his signature 2012 income tax plan.

The Senate plan would eliminate the current state income tax brackets of 2.7 and 4.6 percent and instead apply a 4.6 percent rate on all taxpayers. It also would lower the sales tax on food and adjust deductions and credits to try to limit its effect on lower-income Kansans. 

Senate President Susan Wagle welcomed the news of progress on a new tax plan, which the Senate will consider Thursday — one day before the Legislature is scheduled to leave Topeka for a three-week break.

“I’m very pleased that the governor’s working with the Legislature on a new proposal,” Wagle said. “We would love to be able to balance the budget quickly and have a short session and give certainty to all Kansas taxpayers.”

Lawmakers are looking at ways to fill a budget hole projected to hit $1 billion by the middle of 2019. Because the Senate plan doesn’t raise the full amount needed, Wagle said lawmakers also could consider increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The flat tax plan could face opposition from multiple groups.

Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative Republican from Hiawatha, said he’d like to take a different path to address the budget deficit.

“It’s a tax increase. When are we going to address spending around this place?” Pyle asked.

Some moderate Republicans and Democrats will oppose the plan because they say a flat tax hits middle- and lower-income families the hardest.

“It’s regressive and it doesn’t solve the problem. It would leave us with a huge deficit,” said Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat.

The Senate and House previously passed a tax bill, but Brownback vetoed it and an override effort fell short.

Friday marks the end of the Legislature’s regular session. Lawmakers are schedule to return May 1 for the wrap-up session.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.