DALLAS - In an effort to break a legislative logjam over how to cover a $400 million budget deficit, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he would sign legislation increasing sales and tobacco taxes.
The 2015 legislative session is already the longest in the state's history.
"It's time to get this done," Brownback told a press conference in Topeka June 8. "It's past time."
After winning a close 21-17 vote in the Senate, the $15.4 billion budget measure faced a more daunting challenge in the House, which has turned down previous attempts at raising revenue. Several senators had to violate their pledge to Washington lobbyist Grover Norquist to never cast a vote in favor of a tax increase.
The tax impasse had threatened to force the state to furlough thousands of workers as of June 7. But Brownback signed a bill preventing the furloughs June 6.
Brownback has pledged to eliminate income taxes and shift the burden to consumers and smokers in what he calls his "March to Zero." The state revenues began shrinking after the legislature made sharp cuts in income tax rates in 2013 at Brownback's urging. The Republican governor and the Republican legislative leaders said that economic growth would offset the lower tax rate.
The tax bill approved by the Senate would raise $423 million during the next fiscal year by increasing the state's sales tax to 6.55% from 6.15% and raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack to $1.29.