Brownback unveils budget proposal

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Tax cuts, tax hikes, changes in how we pay for our schools — those just some of the proposals made in Thursday night’s State of the State address.

Friday, Governor Sam Brownback’s Office laid out just how the lawmakers can get it done.

Holding the line with a four percent state agency budget cut is the first step.

The biggest change is a total re-vamp of how the state pays for education. By taking a complicated formula system and turning it into simple block grants to districts the governor says the state can save money.

The other big change, the governor will pull back on his proposed income tax cuts. Those making under $30 thousand a year will see a slight decrease next year, everyone else won’t get the cuts they were promised until the economy improves. The use of a tax reduction fund will ultimately determine any changes.

“Each year the governor is going to have the ability to see how much money is in that fund, and make a recommendation to the legislature on tax reduction,” said Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan. “Any given year they may not recommend a tax reduction, any given year they may recommend a tax reduction based on what’s in that fund.”

One republican lawmaker likes the plan, but doesn’t think it goes far enough.

“We need to broaden our tax base, so that we can continue on the march to zero with income tax. So we’re going to have to eliminate exemptions,” said Sen. Jeff Melcher, (R) of Leawood.

Finally the plan raises so called “sin taxes” a 25-percent hike on tobacco, a 50-percent hike on alcohol. Those are taxes the state hasn’t increased for years.

“More people accept a tax on a consumption, than they do on their income,” said Secretary Jordan.

“Having a predatory tax on two specific items, just doesn’t make good sense. It’s a crutch to not have to deal with the real fundamental problems,” said Melcher. “It’s easy to pick on them because a lot of people don’t like alcohol and cigarettes, but the fact remains there are smokers and there are drinkers.”

The state budget office says increasing cigarette and alcohol taxes alone will bring in more than $100 million.

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