Local lawmakers head back to Topeka

WICHITA, Kansas – After a four-day weekend, Kansas lawmakers will get back to work Tuesday on the budget, trying to fix a more than $400 million deficit.

Lawmakers tell us they have a long road ahead of them, with a lot of things to debate to get the budget back on track. Some options include raising gas taxes on unleaded gas, not diesel and raising taxes on cigarettes and taxing tobacco products.

“It just stays packed. Yes,” said Democratic Wichita Representative Carolyn Bridges.

Bridges has her bags packed, ready to head back to Topeka, where they’ll discuss taxes.

“Right now, there’s a major disagreement on what we should be doing with taxes,” said Bridges. “The governor obviously wants it to be sale taxes, which he’s calling consumption taxes. It’s a sales tax.”

What taxes actually need to be raised will be the big discussion.

“He’s recommended taxes on cigarettes and liquor, but quite frankly, that’s just a drop in the bucket,” Bridges said. “It will not solve our budget problem.”

“I know we’re looking at ways to make our tax structure sensible and make sure that it’s a very stable environment for businesses,” said Republican Senator Michael O’Donnell.

O’Donnell says they need to figure out what the tax structure will look like, not only for this year, but for years to come.

“Right now, our tax structure is in a solid place, but we’d have to make cuts. So we’d have to go back and figure out, what’s our tax plan going to be?” said O’Donnell. “Once we have that tax plan in place, we’ll be moving towards the budget.”

But for Bridges, she’d like to address having LLC business back on tax rolls. She says that would fill up their $400 million hole.

“Right now, 330,000 people that aren’t paying any Kanas income tax. One of our republican representatives from here proposed a bill to put them back on. And by his calculation, that would raise about $220 million, I’m guessing it will raise more than that quite frankly,” Bridges said.

Lawmakers tell me the clock is ticking. Each day, they spend in the special session cost about $43,000. They know public pressure is on them.

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