The latest from Kansas Legislature

Kansas Statehouse (KSN File Photo)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – The Latest on the opening day of the Kansas Legislature’s annual session:

4:50 p.m.

A Kansas House committee is drafting a bill to repeal an income tax cut for farmers and business owners championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The Taxation Committee voted Monday to sponsor the measure. It acted less than three hours after the GOP-controlled Legislature convened its annual session.

Some committee members also said they want lawmakers to pass the bill this month so that the changes could be applied retroactively to Jan. 1. Doing so would allow the state to raise revenues earlier.

Lawmakers must close projected budget shortfalls totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019.

The targeted tax break was enacted in 2012 and is a personal income tax exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. Brownback has strongly defended it as a pro-growth policy.

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3:35 p.m.

A Kansas House committee has kicked off the Legislature’s debate over rolling back personal income tax cuts championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

The GOP-controlled Taxation Committee met Monday less than two hours after the Legislature convened its annual session.

Lawmakers must close a projected $342 million shortfall in the current budget and gaps in funding for existing programs totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019.

Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since GOP legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging. Many voters now see the tax cutting as a failed economic stimulus effort.

Lawmakers in both parties want to repeal or scale back an income tax break approved in 2012 for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners.

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3:25 p.m.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says her chamber is ready to find “permanent solutions” to the state’s ongoing budget problems.

The Wichita Republican said during session-opening remarks Monday that Kansas residents expect belt-tightening of their state government.

Wagle later told reporters that she does not believe that her fellow senators want to resort to one-time accounting moves to close a projected $342 million shortfall in the state’s current budget.

The state could delay contributions to public employee pensions. Lawmakers also have talked about liquidating a state investment fund.

House Majority Leader and Dighton Republican Don Hineman said he does not expect GOP Gov. Sam Brownback to propose significant cuts to the current budget.

Brownback said only that he will outline his budget proposals Wednesday.
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2 p.m.

Kansas legislators have opened their annual session to wrestle with the state’s budget problems and consider rolling back income tax cuts championed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Both the House and Senate convened Monday afternoon for a first day typically long on speeches and ceremony and short on actual business.

But the House Taxation Committee was meeting later in the afternoon to kick off a debate over tax issues.

The state faces a projected shortfall of $342 million in its current budget and gaps in funding for existing programs totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.

Kansas has struggled to balance its budgets since the GOP-dominated Legislature slashed income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy. Many voters concluded last year that the effort was a bust.

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1:15 p.m.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is warning that the Kansas Supreme Court could be forced to close the state’s courts extra days if lawmakers cut the judicial system’s budget.

Nuss said Monday that the Supreme Court’s main option for reducing spending is to force court employees to take unpaid days off. Closing the courts an extra day saves $250,000.

But he also told reporters that he’s confident legislators want to avoid such a move. The court imposed unpaid days off in 2010 and 2012.

The state faces a projected shortfall of $342 million in its current budget and gaps in spending for existing programs totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.

The Supreme Court is not only seeking to preserve the judiciary’s funding but also pay raises for court employees and judges.

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12:50 p.m.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss says the Kansas Supreme Court hopes to have a decision on whether the state’s spending on public schools is adequate.

But Nuss wouldn’t say Monday exactly when the high court expects rule in a lawsuit filed against the state in 2010 by four local school districts.

The Legislature expects to work this year on a new formula for distributing $4.1 billion a year in aid to the state’s 286 school districts. The court’s decision could shape lawmakers’ work.

GOP legislators junked a per-student formula in 2015 in favor of stable “block grants” for districts but that law is set to expire June 30.

The Supreme Court is considering whether the state spends enough money on its schools overall. It heard arguments from attorneys in September.

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10:25 a.m.

Kansas House leaders plan to have a new and usually large budget subcommittee work on a new public school funding formula.

House Speaker and Olathe Republican Ron Ryckman Jr. appointed a 17-member K-12 Education Budget Committee ahead of Monday’s opening of the Legislature’s annual session.

GOP Gov. Sam Brownback has said he wants lawmakers to approve a new formula this year.

The House previously had five Appropriations subcommittees and one handled both public school and higher education spending. Ryckman split the education subcommittee into two panels.

The other Appropriations subcommittees have nine members.

House Majority Leader and Dighton Republican Don Hineman said Monday that the intent is to have one committee focus on public school funding.

Senate Republican leaders have not decided how they’ll handle school funding legislation.

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9:45 a.m.

A Republican leader in the Kansas House says he expects GOP Gov. Sam Brownback to propose one-time fiscal moves to avoid big cuts in the current budget.

Dighton Republican and House Majority Leader Don Hineman said Monday that options for balancing the current budget are limited but does not expect Brownback to propose big spending cuts.

Lawmakers were opening their annual session Monday. The state faces a projected shortfall of $342 million when the current fiscal year ends June 30.

The state could delay contributions to public employee pensions. Lawmakers also have talked about liquidating a state investment fund.

Hineman declined to be specific about what he expects from Brownback.

Brownback also wouldn’t provide details in a brief interview Monday. He plans to release budget proposals Wednesday.

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12:27 a.m.

The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature expects to kick off its debate over ending an income tax break championed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback shortly after lawmakers open their annual session.

The House Taxation Committee plans to meet Monday afternoon, less than two hours after both chambers convened for what traditionally has been a day long on ceremony and speeches and short on substantial business.

But Chairman Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican, said he wants the House panel to begin working quickly on revenue-raising proposals.

Lawmakers must close a projected $342 million shortfall in the current budget and gaps in funding for existing programs totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since GOP legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in what many voters now see as a failed economic stimulus effort.