Kansas governor vetoes ‘reckless’ flat tax proposal

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TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced her veto of a sprawling flat tax proposal Friday, calling the plan “reckless,” and one reminiscent of former Gov. Sam Brownback’s disastrous tax cuts.

The 5.25% state income tax proposal, encapsulated as House Bill 2284, was sent to Kelly’s desk Jan. 18, after the Republican-dominated Legislature fast tracked the plan early in the legislative session. 

“I support responsible tax cuts, but I refuse to sign into law a reckless flat tax that would take us back to Brownback while doing next to nothing for the middle class,” Kelly said in her veto explanation. “This flat tax experiment would overwhelmingly benefit the super wealthy and I’m not going to put our public schools, roads, and stable economy at risk just to give a break to those at the very top.” 

The package was estimated to cost $1.589 billion over a three-year period, and contained other elements, such as eliminating the state sales tax on groceries on April 1, instead of the current deadline of Jan. 1, 2025.

A study of the proposal conducted by nonpartisan research organization ITEP estimated that 44.5% of the income tax savings would go to the top 5% of wage earners. The top 20% would have gotten an average tax break of $828, while the bottom 80% of wage earners would get an average annual tax break of $89 under the flat tax.

Kelly vetoed a similar flat tax plan in 2023 that set out a 5.15% flat tax and has voiced general disapproval of a single or flat tax structure. A Republican-driven attempt to veto override fell short by one vote in the Senate. 

Top Republican legislators Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, both strong flat tax advocates, condemned Kelly’s veto. Hawkins said House Republicans would attempt a veto override. Masterson, an Andover Republican, said the governor was unwilling to work across the aisle. 

“Today the governor yet again put her radical ideology ahead of the people,” Masterson said. “She is so focused on hyper-partisan politics that she has again vetoed a compromise tax plan that was primarily designed to increase the take home pay for every Kansan and bring sustainable tax relief for hard-working taxpayers who are suffering under Bidenflation. The governor has proven again that she has abandoned the middle.”

Kelly said she would continue to advocate for a bipartisan tax plan she endorsed earlier in the session.  The $1 billion, three-year tax reform bill focus on the reduction of income, sales and property taxes. 

“While I urge the legislature to take this irresponsible flat tax experiment off the table once and for all, know that I will not let legislators leave Topeka this year without meaningfully and responsibly cutting taxes for middle-class families,” Kelly said. “I will call a special session if I have to – anything to ensure Kansans see tax relief, immediately.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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