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Area lawmakers focused on tax relief during this week’s special session

By JONATHAN ZWEYGARDT
Hays Post

Area lawmakers return to Topeka this week for a special legislative session to once again take up tax policy after the governor vetoed previous attempts to reach agreement on a tax cut deal, but a deal announced late last week would could be a sign of a fast session.

Kansas lawmakers will return Tuesday, June 18, for the special session. The special session comes after Democratic Governor Laura Kelly vetoed three previous tax plans.

Her last veto came in May after lawmakers reached an agreement in the final hours of the legislative session.

In a statement, Kelly said the Legislature was “playing political games with reckless tax policies” while not following through on her recommendations.

The measure passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Hays Rep. Barb Wasinger, R-Hays, 111th District, is a member of the House Taxation Committee and will be back in Topeka on Monday to get to work ahead of the special session.

Wasinger, like many Republican lawmakers, expressed frustration over the need for a special session.

“During the last round of vetoes, she vetoed her own tax plans and she knew that if she vetoed the last one, it was going to cost Kansas even more money to come back (for a special session),” said Wasinger. “I sometimes think that political people don’t use common sense and don’t think about the people they influence when they do these kinds of things.”

Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, 110th District, also expressed disappointment over the need for a special session that is expected to cost taxpayers about $84,000 per day.

“I think it was avoidable. It’s disappointing that we have to do this,” Rahjes said. “The Legislature had something in a bipartisan way and the governor decided to play a game and so here we are.”

Late Thursday, Kelly announced that she and Republican leaders in the Legislature had agreed on a plan before Tuesday’s session.

Kelly said in a statement: “The Legislature and I have reached a consensus on a tax relief package that will be presented to the House and Senate during the upcoming special session.”

Senate President Ty Masterson of Andover and House Speaker Dan Hawkins of Wichita said in a joint statement: “It simplifies the tax code in two brackets, lowers rates, includes substantial exemptions to help lower-income Kansans, lowers property taxes statewide and repeals the state tax. social security tax.”

Both the House and Senate must still approve the latest tax measure before it can go to the governor. Kelly has said she would sign the latest bill.

Rahjes said he thinks it’s important to get something substantial done because the statistic is currently in surplus, and said high inflation and other economic factors continue to weigh on Kansans.

“A week ago, Caterpillar said they’re actually closing their Wamego plant and Wamego is one of the bright spots in the state of Kansas where the workforce continues to grow,” Rahjes said. “But 400 jobs in that area is huge.”

Rahjes said he also planned to be in Topeka on Monday and has volunteered to serve on the tax committee now that there is an opening.

He added, “Worrying about these other things and playing games to win one or two seats in the Legislature, that’s not what Kansans want.” Kansas is used to being pragmatic and finding solutions that are good for the people of Kansas.”

Wasinger said she is focused on easing the tax burden for many groups of Kansans.

“I want to give tax relief to Kansans,” Wasinger said. “I want to stop taxing our seniors so they leave the state and take their money to other places. I want them to stay in Kansas, I want them to get the same tax benefits as other states around us.”

Wasinger added, “I want our veterans, especially our disabled veterans, to get some tax relief so they can live in their homes without worry. There is so much we need to do for our taxpayers, but it’s just not happening.”

Rahjes said he believes many lawmakers agree with Wasinger and himself on the need for relief for seniors and veterans, but they have also expressed the need to find a way to provide property tax relief to taxpayers.

“People always say, Ken, we need a property tax break for our homes and everything else, especially because we know there’s a surplus there that can be used for that relief,” Rahles said. “So that’s the priority for me.”

The deal announced last week would save Kansas taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next three years, according to reports from the Associate Press.

It would also move Kansas to a two-rate income tax system and cut property taxes by at least another $230 million over the next three years.