Gov. Kelly endorses new tax relief bill

Gov. Laura Kelly endorsed a tax-relief bill negotiated by a Republican-led committee. It would keep a three-tiered tax rate but reduce the top bracket. It also would end the food tax sales early, exempt Social Security benefits from all income tax, expand the residential property tax exemption and increase the standard deduction for income tax purposes.


State News

April 4, 2024 - 3:20 PM

Democratic Sen. Tom Holland, left, and Republican Sens. Caryn Tyson and Virgil Peck chuckle in unison Wednesday during a House-Senate conference committee working out details of changes to state property, sales and income tax policy. Photo by Kansas Reflector screen capture from Kansas Legislature’s YouTube channel

TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly endorsed the tax-relief bill negotiated Wednesday by a Republican-led committee ending the food sales tax early, exempting from income tax all Social Security benefits, expanding the residential property tax exemption, increasing the standard deduction for income tax purposes and cutting the top income tax rate.

The recommendations of the six-member House and Senate conference committee that were incorporated into House Bill 2036 included tax-policy supported by both chambers and tax changes not envisioned by either chamber.

The House and Senate agreed to end the state’s 2% sales tax on groceries July 1 instead of Jan. 1 and supported eliminating the state income tax on Social Security benefits.

The Senate had sought a single-rate income tax favoring wealthy Kansans. The House supported a two-rate model that lowered income tax rates across the board. Under the deal, however, the state would retain a three-rate structure. The upper-bracket rate would be cut from 5.7% to 5.5%, but nothing would be done to alter the 5.25% middle bracket and the 3.1% bracket for those with modest incomes.

While neither the House or Senate have voted on the package, Kelly said in a message addressed to Democrats that the bill “does not represent the perfect tax plan” but did provide “substantial tax relief for all Kansans.”

She touted the bill’s estimated $67 million increase in the standard deduction for income taxes — up 43% for single filers and a boost of 25% for those married filing jointly and the head of households. She said it was the largest such increase written into any tax bill this session. The House-passed bill would have raised the married filing jointly standard deduction from the current $8,000 to $8,240, but the new agreement pushed that deduction to $10,000.

In personal terms, the new standard deduction would provide $60 in tax relief for those earning $50,000 annually and a $50 tax cut for those earning $100,000 annually.

In January, Kelly vetoed Republican leadership’s initial tax overhaul bill. Failure to override the governor sent the Legislature into a two-month scramble for an alternative. This bill came together two days before the Legislature was scheduled to adjourn for three weeks.

“I intend to sign this bipartisan compromise when it reaches my desk,” Kelly said.

The cost to the state treasury of HB 2036, and the fiscal estimate for the cluster of other tax bills proposed by the conference committee, hasn’t been made public.

The fine print

Under the negotiated tax bill outlined by Weskan GOP Rep. Adam Smith, Kansas homeowners would be allowed to exempt the first $100,000 of assessed valuation from residential property tax collected for K-12 public schools. The current exemption stands at $40,000. The bill also would lower the statewide mill levy for K-12 education to 19.5 mills, down from 20 mills. The House bill would have reduced it to 18 mills. House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, said that reduction in property tax revenue for public education would be replaced by drawing upon the state general fund.

The compromise bill featured a $60 million child- and dependent-care tax credit. That was in the Senate’s latest tax plan, but not the House’s. Both chambers had previously voted to grant a business tax break to financial institutions, deliver the $120 million income tax exemption for Social Security and cut state revenue $63 million by speeding up the food sales tax repeal.

“I know this is probably not what either one of us would have created,” said Smith, chairman of the House tax committee. “I completely respect our leadership and the balance they have to find — to find something that can move forward.”

Sen. Caryn Tyson, the Parker Republican and chair of the Senate tax committee, said “we do understand the position we’re in and we are willing to accept your offer.”