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Legislators show courage in passing tax increase over veto E-mail
Opinion
Friday, 16 June 2017 07:48


A SECOND OPINION, The Wichita Eagle



It's difficult to say a tax increase is a good idea.

It's even more difficult for a politician to cast a vote in support of a tax increase.

But sometimes it's the right thing to do.

This week, a majority of our state senators and representatives made the right decision.

They voted for a plan to partially roll back the income tax cuts of 2012 and eliminate a tax exemption for some types of businesses that was simply unfair to every Kansan who draws a traditional paycheck.

Legislators voted to change course from a tax experiment that, while well intentioned, did not produce significant positive results for the Kansas economy. In fact, the very tax cuts and exemptions that were meant to bring more prosperity to Kansas had our state government pointed toward bankruptcy.

Legislators not only made the difficult decision to support a tax increase, they then were forced to override a veto from Gov. Sam Brownback, who has refused to adapt on a tax policy that has not delivered as promised.

Brownback turned his back on the will of the people in Kansas who voted last fall for a change in Topeka. Those voters ushered out ultra-conservatives and voted in Democrats and moderate Republicans to get the job done. Those legislators, and others who were already in office, did that this week, showing integrity and a refreshing spirit of compromise.

Do we like everything about the plan that was approved? No.

Ideally, it would have been paired with spending cuts to help eliminate the state's budget deficit. We are certain there is still excessive spending and inefficiency to be rooted out in state government, state agencies and public school systems across the state.

But spending cuts alone would not have been enough. Brownback abdicated his chance to provide leadership in that area last fall as deficits mounted and he failed to implement spending cuts. Instead, he pushed the problem to the Legislature.

While most of us will pay higher income taxes under the plan that was approved, the rates will still be lower than they were before 2012. The plan also restores a child and dependent care credit, increases itemized deductions for mortgage interest and allows for the deduction of a portion of medical expenses - all good things for our state's taxpayers.

The elimination of the tax exemption for non-wage business income for the owners of LLCs is key to restoring fairness to our state tax system. The owners of LLCs will now pay taxes on their profits just as most of us pay taxes on our income. They will be able to claim their losses, as well.

We were most encouraged by the recognition by legislators from both parties that nothing would get accomplished without compromise. The energy for this came from a coalition of Republicans and Democrats called the women's caucus. We commend members of the group, who encouraged their fellow legislators to focus on common ground rather than differences.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman of Olathe and Sen. Rick Wilborn of McPherson, both Republicans, should also be commended. They, along with some other House members, voted no on the tax package but voted in favor of an override of Brownback's veto. Wilborn said he realized there was no chance that a bill more to his liking would be approved.

This new-found atmosphere of compromise gives us hope for the Legislature's ability to solve challenging problems in the future.

This week, though, that willingness to compromise resulted in a course correction that puts our state on a path toward financial security.


 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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