What an Exciting Day Yesterday Was!
We showed up dutifully at 9:30 yesterday morning for the tax conference committee only to be told shortly before 10:00 that the meeting was postponed until 1:00.
Well, okay, we were able to get a little of the work piling up on our desk done since both the House and the Senate, having nothing to vote on, simply gaveled in and went on recess until 2:00.
We showed up dutifully at 1:00 for the meeting of the tax conference committee only to be told that it was now postponed until 4:00.
Well, okay, we were able to grab a bite and chat with our fellow lobbyists since both the House and the Senate, having nothing to vote on, simply gaveled in and went on recess until 5:00.
We showed up dutifully at 4:00 for the meeting of the tax conference committee only to be told that it was now postponed until 6:00.
Well, okay, we were able to quaff a cool ice tea and chat with our fellow lobbyists since both the House and the Senate, having nothing to vote on, simply gaveled in and went on recess.
The Senate then decided to give it up and go home for the night.
But we showed up dutifully at 6:00 for the meeting of the tax conference committee only to be told that it was now postponed until sometime today.
The House then decided to give it up and go home for the night.
What’s Going On?
The process continues mired in a debate among those that want businesses to pay their fair share of taxes, those that think businesses should be exempt from taxes and the budget should be balanced on the backs of the middle class and poor, and those that think there is no problem that can’t be solved by simply gutting state services including education.
Governor Brownback, whose reckless tax policy has caused this mess, vowed to veto any bill that reinstated income taxes on businesses. Now he says that if the legislature does not pass tax increases that fall the heaviest on the middle class and poor, he will just slash the budget, cutting nearly $200 million out of K-12 education, $50 million out of higher ed and another $200 million out of all other agencies including public safety and the social service safety net.
Twenty-one Republican Senators passed a tax increase that the House won’t support, and some of those Senators have been asking the House to reject the bill that they had passed.
Complicating things is the high absenteeism in the House. Over the past few days and nights they have had as many as 25 members missing and every vote not cast is the equivalent of a NO vote. We don’t know why there are so many absences; some have been recalled to their jobs having been granted the 90 days of leave needed for the 90 day session; some are farmers who have had to get crops in or risk losing their income.
And there’s Saline County. Their Senator, Tom Arpke (R) is on a cruise to Alaska and one of their Representatives, J.R. Claeys (R) is reported to be in Fiji. Thank goodness they still have Diana Dierks (R) who shows up every day to advocate for her constituents.
Don’t Worry, I’ll Fix It…
There is now talk under the dome that Brownback is suggesting the House pass the tax bill and then pass a “trailer bill” to fix their concerns.
Could this work? Well, let’s reflect back on 2012 when moderate Republican and Democratic Senators voted down Brownback’s tax plan. Then Senate President Steve Morris (R-Hugoton) was contacted by the Governor who urged him to muster the votes to pass the bill. According to Morris, the Governor assured him that the bill was flawed and would be fixed in a conference committee if the Senate could just send it there.
Morris and a few other moderate Republicans took the Governor at his word and changed their votes. The House then quickly agreed with the bill and sent it to the Governor who happily signed it.
The Governor himself then assisted in a largely successful effort to oust moderates from the Senate. Many moderate incumbents went down in defeat to tea party challengers supported by Brownback, the Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity, and the Club for Growth.