TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas House members were to reconvene Thursday to finish voting on a bill that would raise taxes to close a budget deficit, appearing poised to vote it down and increase the likelihood of deep spending cuts.
House Speaker Ray Merrick called the latest plan members are voting on, ” the last train”.
The House broke off its session at midnight Wednesday, in the midst of the tax vote, and it was to pick up work at the same point on its agenda. The roll will be open under a procedure that was used to call in 10 absent members to vote. The tally stood at 86-29 against the bill, but the result is not yet final.
That maneuver is often used to give House leaders time to persuade lawmakers to change their votes, and the roll occasionally remains open for hours. The House also has a rule that cuts off business at midnight unless members vote specifically to work longer — which they did not Wednesday.
“Time for the gamesmanship to stop,” said House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City Democrat. “Don’t hide behind this midnight rule.”
But even supporters of the bill, which has already passed the Senate, did not think it would advance. It raises more than $400 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1. It increases sales and cigarette taxes and includes a modest tax increase for business owners.
Because the Kansas Constitution prohibits the state from running a deficit, the tax increases are necessary to balance a $15.4 billion budget already approved by lawmakers.
“None of us, I think, comprehend at this moment what is going to happen to our citizens,” House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, said in an unsuccessful effort to get House members to switch their votes to yes.
The state’s budget shortfall arose after lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging in an effort to stimulate the economy.
Brownback’s budget director told a group of lawmakers earlier this week that the governor’s most likely option for balancing the budget without a tax plan would be $400 million in spending cuts. But several top Republicans said if they adjourned without a tax plan, they expected Brownback to call a special session.
Thursday was the 112th day of the Legislature’s annual session, making it the longest in state history.