Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday proposed granting Kansas residents who filed state income taxes last year a one-time refund of $ 250, abandoning the idea to a skeptical Republican-controlled legislature then that she faces a tough race for re-election.
The governor had given no public indication that she was considering such a proposal, and she has already called for the elimination of the high US sales tax on groceries. His successful 2018 campaign for governor underscored his opposition as a state senator to a previous and notorious nationwide experience of cutting state income taxes under the GOP governor, Sam Brownback, which was followed by persistent budget deficits.
But Kelly said Kansas can afford one-time discounts because the payments won’t permanently reduce state revenues. The state budget is in much better shape than it was before lawmakers repealed most of the Brownback-era tax cuts in 2017, with tax collections exceeding expectations for all. except three months since then.
The governor’s statement on the proposal touted his handling of the state’s finances and his efforts to attract business development, which will likely be prominent themes in his re-election campaign.
“We can give money back to the taxpayers,” Kelly said in her statement, adding that “the big savings for every family” would be realized by next summer, just months before the general election in November.
Kelly’s plan would provide $ 250 to individual filers and $ 500 to married couples filing jointly. The rebates would go to 1.2 million Kansas residents, costing the state about $ 445 million. People would get the refund even if they didn’t owe taxes for the year, Kelly’s office said.
The legislature is expected to approve the plan after meeting on Jan. 10 for its next annual session. GOP lawmakers should have their own proposals for permanent income tax cuts.
Republicans were immediately skeptical of Kelly’s plan, both because of its timing and the fact that tax relief would not continue beyond next year. Senate Speaker Ty Masterson and Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman Jr. have said they prefer permanent tax cuts.
Republicans are confident they can topple Kelly next year, capitalizing on frustration over Democratic President Joe Biden’s policies that energize Tories and make other GOP-supporters vote against Kelly. Masterson, a Republican from Andover, said Kelly’s latest shot showed she had an “election year reveal.”
Ryckman, a Republican from Olathe, said: “The Kansans are smart, they can see through Laura Kelly’s attempt to throw away $ 250 right before her election.”
Republicans were also skeptical because Kelly vetoed three GOP proposals to cut income taxes, each time suggesting Republicans were fiscally irresponsible and attempting to repeat the Brownback tax experiment. GOP lawmakers this year overturned Kelly’s veto on personal and corporate income tax cuts worth about $ 95 million a year.
And Kelly has repeatedly called for caution amid monthly income surpluses. After tax collection exceeded expectations by 3.1% in November – even after budget forecasters upped their projections – Kelly said: “While our government revenue numbers continue to be encouraging , maintaining fiscal responsibility is essential for moving forward. “
While Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes of Lenexa said she and her fellow Democratic senators would ‘defend’ the governor’s plan, it was not immediately clear that Kelly’s proposal had support. universal among Democrats.
Jonathan Cole, a liberal community activist from Manhattan, almost immediately tweeted that the proposal was “horrible policy.”
“What a perfect opportunity for Republicans to attack you for ‘buying’ votes,” he said.
Meanwhile, the elimination of the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries enjoys broad bipartisan support. The proposal would cost the state about $ 450 million a year in revenue – but the Kansas tax on groceries is second after the Mississippi tax among U.S. states. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, only six states tax groceries at the same rate as other consumer goods.
The alleged GOP candidate for governor next year, State Attorney General Derek Schmidt, called for reducing or eliminating the tax on groceries last month, days before Kelly revealed officially the plan she was working on. Schmidt’s campaign manager CJ Grover accused Kelly on Wednesday of trying to “make an election year.”
But Sykes said Kelly’s income tax proposal “will give Kansas families a boost.”
“It gives relief to all Kansans in every corner of the state,” said Sykes.
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