Archive for Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Governor says he’ll sign legislation by month’s end

May 12, 2010

Reaction came swiftly Tuesday to the $314 million sales tax increase approved by the Kansas Legislature as the 2010 session closed.

Gov. Mark Parkinson said he would sign it, and the accompanying budget, into law by the end of the month.

“The bipartisan, balanced budget on its way to my desk reflects the values and priorities of Kansans,” Parkinson said.

“The 1-cent sales tax is a temporary solution which prevents permanent damage to our children’s education, our communities’ public safety and the care we provide to vulnerable citizens,” he added.

His comments came after a dramatic showdown in the House where the tax increase gained final approval on a 64-61 vote around 2 a.m. Tuesday, after the roll call was kept open for more than four hours.

Under the tax bill, the state sales tax will go from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar for three years, starting July 1. Then on July 1, 2013, the tax will decrease to 5.7 percent with revenue from 0.4 of a cent going toward highway construction.

The budget and tax bills were crafted by a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans over the objections of a majority of Republicans, including House leaders, and business interests that opposed a tax increase and wanted more cuts.

Dan Murray, Kansas state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the Legislature “made a big mistake” in approving a tax increase because it will hurt businesses.

“Our members are furious with lawmakers for raising taxes now,” Murray said. “Kansas is still trying to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Our members understand that the state is facing a huge budget deficit, but a tax increase is going to make our economy worse, not better.”

Education advocates praised the legislators who pushed the tax bill through.

Rick Doll, Lawrence schools superintendent, said the Legislature’s action regarding the sales tax increase means the school board won’t have to make additional cuts for next school year.

Jill Docking, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents, commended legislators who voted to protect higher education funding and approve a tax bill.

“Now is the time for regeneration — the time for the state to invest in its higher education system to lay the foundation for its future economic recovery. To those legislators who were willing to cast such critically important and responsible yes votes, thank you for investing in the future of Kansas,” Docking said.

When Kansas fell into the national recession, state funds dried up. For the first time in modern history, Kansas experienced a decline in tax collections for consecutive years. State officials cut nearly $1 billion as revenue declined and still Kansas faced another $500 million shortfall.

The bipartisan coalition fashioned tax and budget maneuvers to cover that $500 million gap.

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