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June 17, 2020

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Lawrence Journal-World: Women’s caucus in Kansas House drafting bipartisan tax bill

Topeka — A bipartisan group of women in the Kansas House has been working behind the scenes on a tax plan that they hope can pass both chambers with veto-proof majorities.


"We started just a bipartisan group of women in the House," said Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park.


"And through a lot of collaboration and some wonderful facilitation from Rep. Monica Murnan (D-Pittsburg), we just started putting together our ideas for what we wanted for a tax plan."


"We did it the old-fashioned way," she said. "We voted. We wrote it down, crossed off what we could keep."

Clayton said the group's plan is still being negotiated, but as of Saturday afternoon they were looking at one that would raise about $1.3 billion in new income taxes for the first two years and then taper down to about $600 million a year as certain deductions that have been reduced or eliminated since 2012 are put back into place.


Like all of the plans that have been considered so far this session, it would roll back many of the tax cuts that Gov. Sam Brownback championed in 2012. That includes putting more than 330,000 farmers and business owners back on the tax roll, retroactive to Jan. 1, and repealing the so-called "glide path to zero," a formula that automatically cuts income tax rates in the future until income taxes are eliminated.


The plan would reinstate a three-tier tax system so that, starting July 1, individuals would be taxed at a rate of 3.1 percent on the first $15,000 of taxable income; 5.25 percent on the next $15,000 of income; and 5.9 percent on any taxable income above $30,000 a year.


For married couples filing jointly, the bracket thresholds are double what they are for individuals.

The plan would also lower the standard deduction to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for couples filing jointly. Currently that exemption is $5,250 for an individual and $12,000 for a couple filing jointly.


That deduction is sometimes called the "low income exclusion" because people with incomes below those levels have no income tax liability.


In addition, starting in 2018, the plan would fully restore the child care tax credit, which was eliminated in 2012. It would also phase in restoration of several other tax credits and deductions, including deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes paid and medical expenses.


Starting in 2019, people who rent their homes would once again become eligible for what's known as a "homestead" rebate program. Also that year, the plan would reinstate the food sales tax rebate program.

The women's caucus is working independently from each party's leadership team, but Clayton said both leadership teams are aware of the caucus' efforts.


House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said Saturday that he was trying to meet with every Republican in the House in an effort to put together a plan that may be offered in a conference committee as early as Sunday. As of Saturday afternoon, though, it hadn't been decided whether it would include two or three tax brackets.


"Those are things we're discussing," he said.


Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said Saturday that the three-tier plan the Senate passed on Tuesday, May 30, now constitutes the "Senate's position" on tax policy, and he said the Senate will not vote on another tax bill until one comes out of the House.


Saturday marked the 106th day of the session, and lawmakers planned to work again Sunday afternoon, and possibly into Monday or Tuesday.

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