Saturday, May 12, 2012

GOP, Democratic legislative leaders urge Brownback to veto tax-cut bill

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Republican and Democratic leaders on Friday called on Gov. Sam Brownback to veto a deficit-producing tax cut as the legislative session hit overtime with numerous major issues unresolved.

"That would be the appropriate action," Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said of a veto.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said the proposed tax cut was reckless and would require deep reductions to schools, assistance for those with disabilities and highway funding.They also said it would benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

Fiscal profiles of the tax cut by the Kansas Legislative Research Department projected budget shortfalls ranging from $242 million to $304 million by the time the Legislature meets next year, and $2.5 billion to $3 billion in 2018, which is an amount equal to nearly one-half the current budget of $6.2 billion in state funds.

But Brownback, a Republican, disagreed with the assessment.

"We can make this work," Brownback said. "This is a pro-growth tax cut," he said. Through economic growth and tight control of spending, the proposal would balance, he said.

Brownback said he would prefer a smaller tax cut that was produced by a House-Senate conference committee, but said if he doesn't get that bill, he will sign the larger one. The measures would lower income tax rates and eliminate taxes on non-wage income for nearly 200,000 businesses.

The political maneuvering employed by Brownback to get that larger tax cut on his desk, and the fighting between conservatives and moderates in the Republican Party over legislative redistricting continued to cause bad feelings in the Capitol.

"There is a war," said Morris. He said the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and others are trying to oust moderate Republicans like himself. "The conservative wing of our party would like to have a grand slam. Everyone would be lock-step," he said.

Morris declined to say if he thought Brownback, a conservative, was directly involved. "I have my thoughts. I'd rather not comment," he said. Later, Morris said that he "certainly under-estimated what the governor was willing to do."

Brownback said, "I'm not at war with anybody." Brownback declined to say if he was happy with Senate leaders, but later in his news conference he praised the House and said the Senate had not accomplished much.

Brownback was asked if he had made assurances to Senate leaders that if they voted for the larger tax cut to continue the process of negotiations, the bill would not be approved by the House and sent to him. Brownback denied he made that assurance.

The charges and counter-chargers were leveled as the Legislature completed the 90-day session and agreed to resume work Monday.

On Friday, with major issues still up in the air, state legislators approved measures taking aim at Islamic Sharia law and United Nations Agenda 21.

The Senate approved a bill the bans Kansas courts and administrative agencies from basing rulings on foreign laws or legal systems.

The measure doesn't mention Sharia law, but several senators said that was what they were concerned about.

"They stone women to death in countries that have Sharia law," said state Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. "If you vote to not adopt (the bill), it's a vote against women," she said.

But state Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, said the bill was unnecessary because courts already are ruled by United State laws and the U.S. Constitution. He said the bill was based on intolerance and fear and would make people think only those with a Christian, religious-right perspective were welcome in Kansas.

The measure easily passed, 33-3, after winning approval in the House, 120-0. State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, was one of the three who voted against the measure.

Earlier Friday, the House gave final approval on a 76-41 vote to a resolution that says the state House recognizes "the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21."

The measure criticizes U.N. Agenda 21 as a covert plot to destroy the

American way of life through extreme environmentalism, social engineering and global political control.

Critics of the resolution described it as a right-wing conspiracy theory.

Asked if working on anti-Sharia legislation and the U.N. resolution was an appropriate expense of time when major issues weren't resolved, Brownback said the Legislature has spent much more time on taxes and the budget.