by Andy Marso, KHI News Service
The House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.
A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.
Rep. Mark Hutton, a Wichita Republican who joined the conference committee for the specific proposal, has pushed for more than a year to make the business income taxable again. It was exempted in 2012 as part of a tax package Gov. Sam Brownback spearheaded that also included large reductions in individual income tax rates.
Hutton said the latest proposal would be a “structural change” that would restore fairness to the tax code and break the state out of a cycle of low revenue collections and budget deficits.
Rep. Tom Sawyer, the top Democrat on the tax committee, supported the measure.
“This tax plan’s been hurting our state since 2012,” Sawyer said on the House floor before the vote. “I think it’s time we begin to fix this mistake.”
But he and the other tax negotiators admitted that passage would not eliminate the tough decisions the Legislature and Brownback face in fixing the immediate budget crisis, because the business income would not become taxable again until Jan. 1, 2017.
That loomed large for a trio of moderate Republicans — Reps. Lonnie Clark, Susie Swanson and Don Hill — who explained their “no” votes by noting that neither chamber had vetted the bill in committee and it wouldn’t close the budget gap.
The Brownback administration last week outlined three budget-balancing options for legislators that include taking almost $200 million from highway projects and then selling an ongoing tobacco settlement, postponing payments to the public employee retirement fund or making across-the-board spending cuts to state-funded areas, including education and Medicaid.
Brownback has threatened to veto any bill reversing the business tax exemption.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a preeminent lobbying force in the Statehouse, also has opposed any effort to scrap the business tax exemption. Mike O’Neal, president of the Chamber and one of the orchestrators of the tax cut when he was House speaker, said Friday that position remained firm.
Sen. Les Donovan, a Republican from Wichita who chairs the Senate tax committee, said the Senate negotiators only accepted what has become known as the “Hutton plan” for rolling back the tax exemption on the condition that the House vote on it first.
“Our folks are OK with your proposal,” Donovan said. “We know it puts the burden on your shoulders to get it passed.”
An exchange Sawyer had with Donovan during the negotiations previewed concerns some House members had about voting for a tax increase only to see it die in the Senate.
“If the House does pass it, what are its prospects in the Senate?” Sawyer asked.
“We will vote on it,” Donovan replied.
Rep. Stan Frownfelter, a Democrat from the 37th District in Kansas City, Kan., asked about both the governor’s intentions for the bill and its Senate prospects before casting his “no” vote.
In the end the House vote was a mishmash that defied partisan and ideological labels. Some conservatives like Hutton voted for it, but most did not. Rep. Willie Dove, a Republican from the 38th District, Bonner Springs, said the state’s low unemployment numbers and other positive economic indicators had persuaded him to keep the tax exemption in place.
A group of rural Republicans voted for the bill because, in addition to restoring business income to the tax rolls, it also would make business losses deductible again. They said the agriculture sector has been struggling under low commodity prices.
Rep. Sue Boldra, a Republican from Hays who supported Hutton’s effort to roll back the exemption last year, said some of her House colleagues were pretending to stand on principle in voting against restoring the tax but were truly motivated by personal profit as business owners. She acknowledged the bill’s shortcomings in solving the immediate budget crisis but said it was vital to preserving schools, roads and other services long-term.
“This is enough to give us the opportunity to right our ship of state,” Boldra said.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Marvin Kleeb, a Republican who chairs the House Taxation Committee, said the vote was one the House had to have before campaign season, so some members could vote “yes” and go back and tell their constituents they tried to include the business tax as part of the budget-balancing measures, and others could vote “no” and burnish their pro-business bona fides.
“We need to have that vote on the House floor,” Kleeb said.
The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.
Edwardsville Days continues today
Edwardsville Days, a two-day event, kicked off Friday night and will continue Saturday, April 30, at Edwardsville City Park, at 1200 Blake St. The events are free and open to the public. The family festival has free activities for youth, including bounce houses geared toward kids under 12, she said. There will also be food vendors and craft vendors at the event. The mayor’s prayer breakfast, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, is scheduled in conjunction with Edwardsville Days, and will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Edwardsville Elementary School. Tickets are $10 for the breakfast. On Saturday, there will be mouse races at 11:15 a.m. benefitting Edwardsville Elementary School, and a parade that starts at 10 a.m., she said. Also scheduled for Saturday afternoon is the Edwardsville Idol competition, modeled after the American Idol program, where anyone can sing karaoke-style, she said. A sanctioned barbecue contest will conclude the Saturday activities, Utter said. Teams will compete and awards will be given at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Spring Fling and 5k run planned today
Harmon High School plans a Spring Fling and Run for the Sun 5k at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 30 at 2400 Steele Road, Kansas City, Kan. Funds are being raised for an outdoor classroom. The cost of the run is $20 for adults and $5 for students with ID. Also planned are fund-raising games and activities at Harmon, plus a soccer tournament at 1 p.m. A volleyball game also is planned. There is an admission charge for the various events.
Bonner library to hold Books, Blocks and Bubbles Young Child Fair Saturday
The Bonner Springs City Library, 201 N. Nettleton Ave., will hold a children’s event from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 30. The 6th annual Books, Blocks and Bubbles Young Child Fair will have the theme, “Down on the Farm.” A petting zoo, a tractor, BLOCK Fest, art projects, story time, puppets and local agency information will be featured at the event. Some of the events are outdoors and some are indoors. In the event of rain, the petting zoo will be held at a later date, but other activities will continue indoors. The project comes out of a collaboration between the library, Parents as Teachers, the Bonner Springs Arts Alliance and the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame. Admission is free to the event.
Sunflower Showdown in rowing today at Wyandotte County Lake
The Sunflower Showdown is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 30, at Wyandotte County Lake. The University of Kansas and Kansas State University women’s rowing teams are scheduled to compete at Wyandotte County Lake, 91st and Leavenworth Road. Events are at the beach shelter.
Learn how marbles are made
A marble-making demonstration is scheduled from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Moon Marble Co. store, 600 E. Front St., Bonner Springs. Demonstrations begin around 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. and end at about 3 p.m., provided a glass artist is available. For more information, see www.moonmarble.com/.
Grinter Quilt Show to be April 29-30
The 40th Grinter Quilt Show will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, at Grinter Place Historic site, 78th and K-32, in Kansas City, Kan. From 50 to 60 quilts are expected to be on display in the show, sponsored by the Grinter Place Quilters. A guest speaker, Vicky Beasley, will attend this year’s Quilt Show. Beasley is the author of the Scrappy Farmer blog. She will speak at 2 p.m. Friday, April 29, and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Grinter House. Her topic will be how to use scraps and how to organize them. Beasley plans to bring quilts to show to those who attend the program. While admission to the quilt show in the Grinter Barn is free, admission to the program in the Grinter House will be $3.
Learn sewing and quilting at the library
Sewing and quilting for beginners or for those who want to learn more will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 30, at the West Wyandotte Library, Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, children’s craft room, 1737 N. 82nd, Kansas City, Kan. The class is for adults, and for those ages 10 and older. There is a limit of 15. Advance registration is requested to the library, 913-596-5800. Those who register get priority.
Master Gardeners Plant Sale to be April 29-30
The Wyandotte County Extension Master Gardeners Plant Sale will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 29, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30, in the Extension Office, Wildcat Room, 1200 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. There will be vegetable plants, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs and more; berry plants; flowers including annuals, perennials and Kansas native wildflowers; and miscellaneous items about gardening, including books, small tools and decorations. Proceeds from the sale help the Master Gardeners continue their activities, including maintaining demonstration gardens at the Ag Hall, at Turner Community Gardens, at the Rainbow Freedom School Garden and at Splitlog Farms. The Master Gardeners also provide educational activities through youth education at the gardens and in cooperation with local schools, and adult horticulture education on a variety of horticulture subjects through monthly classes at the Extension Office and to organizations requesting a speaker.
Parents as Teachers graduation scheduled
Parents as Teachers graduation is planned at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Central Office and Training Center, 2010 N. 59th St., Kansas City, Kan.
Celebrate Children’s Day and Book Day at South Library
The South Branch Kansas City, Kan., Public Library, 3104 Strong Ave. will celebrate Dia De Los Ninos / Children’s Day and Dia De Los Libros / Book Day from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 30. Children can have their pictures drawn by a caricature artist, receive a balloon animal for a balloon artist, ride on a trackless train, play a book-themed game for free books and make a book at the event. Paletas will be served.
Alcott plans benefit auction Saturday
The Alcott Arts Center plans a benefit auction from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 30. The auction is by Blue Valley Northwest High School art honors students and will benefit the Alcott Arts Center, 180 S. 18th, Kansas City, Kan. The National Art Honor Society will auction off vases and lamps they have designed and created, according to an Alcott spokesman. The public is invited to attend the auction to raise funds for Alcott Center. The Alcott Center helps the arts in Kansas City, Kan. The Alcott galleries also will be open from 4 to 7 p.m. April 30, showing art exhibits from Kansas City, Kan., Public School students. The Alcott is not yet ADA accessible. For more information, visit http://www.alcottartscenter.org/ or call 913-233-2787.
High school teams competing in tournament at CommunityAmerica Ballpark
The Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic is scheduled to continue Saturday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan. Some games have been rescheduled for today because of the weather. The schedule is weather-permitting, and it may be changing. To check for schedule updates affected by the weather, visit http://www.kawvalleyleague.org/g5-bin/client.cgi?G5button=13.
Tickets are $7 per adult each day and $5 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. An all-tournament pass costs $14. Tickets are available at Gate A at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Mother-daughter tea planned
Wyandotte United Methodist Church, 7901 Oakland, Kansas City, Kan., plans a Mother-Daughter celebration at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the church. There will be a salad supper, with meat, bread and dessert provided. Each family is asked to bring a vegetable, fruit or pasta salad.
Spring dance planned
A spring dance sponsored by the German-American Edelweiss Society is planned from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at St. Anthony’s Church basement, 615 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kan. The event includes a dinner, plus dancing to polka music by the Willie Kirst Band. Tickets are $20 for adults.