Kansas Senate properly flattens hapless Brownback’s flat-tax plan

Dinah Sykes

Dinah Sykes

UPDATED 4 pm: The Kansas Senate on Thursday killed a flat income tax plan advanced by Gov. Sam Brownback. Good. It would have been a sop to the rich.

The vote was 37-3, a stunning rebuke of the last-minute proposal pushed on Wednesday by Brownback.

Now the Senate and House need to keep working on a far more realistic plan to improve the Sunflower State’s financial situation. It’s a wreck largely because the inept Brownback and ultra-con GOP legislature approved hefty 2012 income tax cuts, which have slashed revenue to the state ever since.

Fortunately, moderate GOP members didn’t to embrace the flat-tax proposal, which Democrats also helped defeat. That’s partly because a flat tax would raise the rates paid by Kansans who make less than $15,000, from the current 2.7 percent to 4.6 percent for everyone.

Here’s what Lenexa Republican Sen. Dinah Sykes said Wednesday.

Sen. Barbara Bollier said in a Wichita Eagle story, “Could I laugh any harder?” when asked if moderate Republicans would support the bill.

The hapless Brownback on Wednesday inserted himself into budget negotiations in the Legislature. He claimed in a statement that a flat tax “creates a single low tax rate for Kansans, solving today’s budget challenges without unnecessarily harming economic growth in Kansas.”

Naturally, the governor is wrong about all of that.

The flat tax would not raise enough money to wipe out the $1 billion imbalance in the next two years’ state budgets, even though it would finally reinstate taxes on owners of 330,000 LLCs. They have enjoyed that protection since 2013. The flat-tax plan also would not be fair; it would tax middle- and high-income taxpayers at the same rate.

Fortunately, some Kansas House members were outspoken in saying they weren’t interested in the flat tax either.

When I joked on Twitter Wednesday about the issue with Overland Park Republican Stephanie Clayton, she had a simple reply:

Earlier this year, the House and Senate took a much better, fairer step. They essentially repealed the 2012 tax  reductions, including the LLC tax exemption. Brownback vetoed the measure, the House overrode him but the Senate barely sustained the veto.

House member Brett Parker, an Overland Park Democrat, referred to that Wednesday by noting on Twitter:

Yes, a bill that actually takes a more serious stab at taking care of the state’s budget woes would be a great place to start.

A  flat tax is not the way to do that. Now that it’s dead, the Legislature needs to get back to the serious business of balancing the budget, work that Brownback is incapable of doing.