If you were not paying attention, you might think the Kansas Legislature had just gone home. This week’s activities involved a long working weekend (for the Senate, as the House basically told the Senate they could go first) during which they agreed on very little, but managed to hammer out a tax bill that was then stripped for procedural reasons to send it to a conference committee. Basically, they worked and made speeches and stayed up late and then decided to erase all of that. That weekend of lost work cost the taxpayers $85,000.
So, what is a conference committee?
When the Kansas Senate passes a bill, the Kansas House has to agree to it before it can become law, and vice versa. If they do not agree, the bills are sent to a conference committee, where a handful of legislators from each chamber hammer out a compromise, then present it to their bodies for up or down votes.
In the case of this tax bill (remember, this is the bill that will produce money to pay for the government next year, including the education block grants), there are six people in the room crafting this legislation. Two are Democrats, and might as well be bystanders. That leaves four Republicans making the law for all of Kansas.
Already, they have managed to create one compromise bill that got slapped down by the House. Today they are working on another.
Tomorrow is the last day the state has money to pay its workers, including universities, state hospitals, and state agencies. ( KPR )
Why the gridlock?
It's simple. Some legislators are so beholden to their ideology, that they will not consider any tax increase, under any circumstances. They have come together in an unlikely alliance with Democrats and Moderates who also object to sales tax increases, and would rather see the 2012 tax cuts rolled back. The Governor, on the other hand, has threatened to veto any plan that taxes business, or hurts his glide path to zero income taxes, but makes up for this with a huge increase in sales tax that would affect all Kansans.
The "No Taxes Ever" crowd and the Moderate crowd are facing the "Zero Income Tax" crowd, who hold a curiously hypocritical stance: the sales tax increase favored by the Governor has been shown to hurt businesses more than any income tax would.
So we have ideology (All Taxes Bad!) versus ideology (No Income Tax Ever!), with the moderate legislators and taxpaying Kansans caught in the middle.
Elections have consequences.
The end result?
Right now the House is holding out for a lower tax on food, and a modest rise in business income tax, both of which would make good election press next year, but don’t offset the revenue losses and are propped up by a huge sales tax increase.
If they hold to that position, we could see furloughs begin tomorrow, and an eventual stalemate on the budget which could lead to the Governor and his red pen making $400 million worth of cuts.