Gov. Brownback signs Kansas income tax cut bill

Brownback signs legislation making more cuts to Kansas income taxes, trimming sales taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Proclaiming Kansas "open for business," Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday signed into law a measure that makes additional income tax cuts over the next five years while generating new revenue through higher sales taxes and other adjustments.

He said the changes make the Kansas tax code "fairer, flatter and simpler for families and small businesses."

"This approach broadens the base and lowers tax rates for the benefit of the maximum number of Kansans," Brownback said during a ceremony at a construction site in Overland Park. "The result has been three years of historic and innovative tax relief. Our pro-growth tax policies will pave the way for Kansas to be the best place in America to raise a family and grow a business.

The changes in income tax rates include an adjustment in the standard deduction for personal income taxes starting in tax year 2014.

The legislation also addresses the state sales tax, which had been scheduled to drop in July from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent. Lawmakers voted instead to trim the rate slightly to 6.15 percent, which will raise an estimated $777 million over five years.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said Brownback isn't pursuing lower taxes so much as pushing to shift the burden to paying taxes to poor and middle-class families. He mocked the governor for planning a trip to the Paris Air Show shortly after signing the bill.

"It's reminiscent of Marie Antoinette — 'Let them eat cake,'" Hensley said.

Legislators approved the measure this year after passing massive income tax cuts in 2012. Brownback has said he hopes eventually to eliminate the state income tax entirely.

The tax package was viewed by Brownback during the 2013 session as completing what he sought to do last year when the first phase of tax cuts were enacted. That plan originally had several so-called "pay-for" provision that sought to offset the rate cuts by eliminating certain itemized deductions and exemptions, including those for mortgage and interest payments.

In the 2012 law, Kansas collapsed the three-bracket system into two and lowered rates. It also boosted the standard deduction for married couples and single parents and exempted the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.

Conservative Republicans pushed the initial cuts through last year while acknowledging that the plan was too aggressive and would need refinement in 2013. Those changes in the bill signed by Brownback on Thursday include decreasing income tax deductions over time as overall rates drop, as well as giving a less generous standard deduction for married couples and single parents.

The top in personal income tax rate will drop to 3.9 percent for 2018, down from 4.9 percent, and promises future rate reductions in years when revenues grow more than 2 percent.

Hensley said the tax policy pursued by Brownback will cause ongoing financial problems for the state and jeopardize funding for schools, higher education, social services and public safety.

"It just won't work. The numbers don't add up," Hensley said. "The road map is a road map to ruin."