By Hunter Woodall
December 7, 2016
Duane Goossen, a former Kansas budget director, stood just steps from Gov. Sam Brownback’s office Wednesday and asked Kansans to consider a series of tax changes that would be a departure from much of the governor’s economic vision for the state.
Goossen spoke alongside a coalition of advocacy groups that said the plan would bring the state around $820 million in the next fiscal year.
The announcement drew an enthusiastic and large crowd to the state Capitol Wednesday morning. The plan included bringing back the top income tax rate that Brownback’s cuts did away with in 2012. That proposed tax rate of 6.45 percent would apply to single filers making $40,000 or more a year or joint filers making $80,000 or more, according to the group’s plan. It also advocated for ending the “March to Zero” on income taxes.
They also called for closing the nicknamed “LLC loophole” that took roughly 330,000 businesses off the state’s tax rolls in that same round of Brownback-era cuts. The plan also asked for the state’s sales tax on food to be reduced to 5 percent.
But it also included a call to up the state’s gas tax by 11 cents a gallon in an effort to help with highway funding. And sales tax money normally meant to go to the state’s highway fund would be used for three years to help the state’s general fund, under the plan.
“This set of organizations is proposing a starting point, a plan that can address those long-term problems that have developed in Kansas,” said Goossen, who now works for the group that served as host for the event, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.
The organizations included the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, Kansas Action for Children, the Kansas Contractors Association, the Kansas National Education Association and the Kansas Organization of State Employees. They presented their coalition’s plan under the name “Rise Up Kansas.”
Goossen worked as a budget director under three past governors: Republican Bill Graves and Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.
In an email Wednesday, Brownback spokeswoman Melika Willoughby was highly critical of the event.
“Liberal special interest groups have long called for ‘wealthy’ small business owners to pay their ‘fair share.’ But today, the true victims of their tax and spend proposals were revealed,” she said. “They are the receptionists, nurses, police officers and other members of the middle class, working hard every day to put gas in the tank and money in their pockets to provide for themselves and their families.”
The plan presented Wednesday focused heavily on tax changes. But it wouldn’t come in time to help lawmakers plug the state budget shortfall that was announced last month.
“I think it’s very important to have a long-term solution in place first,” Goossen said. “Then you know what short-term options might be available to us to to be a bridge. … If you just do a short-term solution, it simply makes things worse and doesn’t fix the problem.”
Lawmakers and state officials are considering how to solve a $348 million shortfall in the next seven months.
An even larger gap of $582 million has already been forecast for the next fiscal year. Brownback has declined to address the problem through his own executive power. And his office maintained again on Wednesday that it would not release a budget solution for legislators until lawmakers come back to Topeka in January.