That heavy lifting

Syndicated to Kansas newspapers June 5, 2017
Martin HawverThis is the week—presumably (hopefully?) the last week of the regular legislative session of 2017—when we learn which legislators, and what part of a majority of a quorum of the Legislature, are willing to settle for less than they wanted.
And, we’re also going to learn just how far ahead lawmakers are thinking about their futures.
Here’s the key.
To get out of this session and back home, it’s clear that income taxes are going to have to be raised. Now, many legislators would quickly re-impose Kansas income tax on that non-wage income of owners of Limited Liability Corporations and the other business organizations that don’t currently pay a dime of taxes on their firms’ profits.
Well, maybe “not a dime,” but whatever it costs to mail in that tax form that says, “not a dime.” Still a good deal.
But just those LLCs, that have become so near-universally disliked that we’re still surprised the LLC owners don’t have to wear a “tax-free” tattoo on their necks for all to see, won’t raise enough money to finance the state budget in the next few years, especially with a new school finance formula brewing under court order.
There’s a small number of members of the House and Senate who don’t want to tax those LLCs. Not enough of them to pass or kill a bill, but enough to make reaching 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate difficult, which means they can demand something or other to hold their noses and vote for a bill with an LLC tax in it.
And, yes, we’re talking 84 and 27 votes, not the simple 63 in the House and 21 in the Senate needed to pass a bill because most believe that Gov. Sam Brownback will veto a tax bill that raises enough money to represent a two-year fix for shrinking state revenues, and those numbers are necessary to override a veto and put the measure into law.
So, it’s likely what’s possible this year, and that thinking about the future, become key because all 125 members of the House stand for election first in August, then November, of 2018. Senators? They get to sit home and read the newspapers; their next election year doesn’t come until 2020.
The best possible tactic for getting out of the Statehouse for House members is to do the truly heavy lifting of raising income taxes in the next few days. That pencils out at the ballot box next year because by that time taxes have been increased, those LLC owners are re-learning to write checks to the account of “State of Kansas,” and everyone has griped. This year’s taxes will have become part of the general culture of the state.
Griping over taxes will probably wane slightly after next April and voters are going to be resigned to writing checks…but they aren’t going to be interested in taking another tax hike which would be passed in the spring of the House next (election) year. Whatever inconveniencing of taxpayers/voters is necessary next year because of legislative scrapping this year will be remembered. Count on it. And, it will be remembered and inflamed at August primary elections for Republican House members and at the general election for everyone.
So, we’re going to see just how lawmakers—especially House members who want to return to the Statehouse in 2018—handle this. Get all the tax increase they think they are going to need to last them past the next election? Or just a dab to get out of the Statehouse this week, with a possible return for a special session if the Kansas Supreme Court decides that they didn’t adequately finance K-12 education in public schools for the future, or at least the two upcoming school years?
Might be interesting…

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