Kansas state Sen. Greg Smith (center) of Overland Park on Sunday discussed a large tax increase package with colleagues Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee and Ty Masterson of Andover. All are Republicans. John Hanna AP
Kansas state Sen. Greg Smith (center) of Overland Park on Sunday discussed a large tax increase package with colleagues Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee and Ty Masterson of Andover. All are Republicans. John Hanna AP

Yael T. Abouhalkah

Five feckless Johnson County GOP senators help pass largest Kansas tax increase ever

By YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH

abouhalkah@kcstar.com

June 08, 2015 7:37 AM

The Kansas Senate could not have passed the largest tax increase in state history Sunday without the help of five irresponsible Johnson County Republican lawmakers.

They were Jim Denning and Greg Smith of Overland Park; Jeff Melcher of Leawood; Julia Lynn of Olathe and Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee.

With a bare majority of votes in the 40-member chamber, the Senate sent the tax package to the House, which will consider it Monday while trying to balance a budget that’s $400 million out of whack.

The House should defeat the bill in the name of tax fairness. If the bill passes, however, Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign it. That’s because the measure contains a big sales tax increase up to 6.55 percent, but does not roll back the special tax breaks for businesses that he signed into law in 2012. That should be part of any plan put into law.

The five feckless Johnson County senators included GOP members that many would not have expected to be on the list of people backing a huge new heaping of taxes on Kansas.

Wait, Greg Smith is on the list?

Yes, that’s the same guy who last weekend railed against taxes. The man who has had four government-paid jobs in his working career said, “Taxes are wrong. Taxes are legalized theft.”

Yet on Sunday, Smith was right there, voting for even more “thievery” from his constituents.

On her website, Pilcher-Cook has the usual conservative GOP boilerplate statement that includes this pledge: “We must keep all taxes low....”

When push came to shove, though, Pilcher-Cook on Sunday chose to march behind a huge new tax burden on Kansans.

Melcher also recently has spoken out on the subject of taxes. He’s tried to increase the burden on farmers; this bill doesn’t do that, yet he supported it anyway.

Also, last weekend, Melcher said he was against tax breaks for nonprofits, saying, “That’s what it is, it’s just pork.”

However, the bill he approved continues tax breaks — or “pork” — for selected, money-making businesses.

Julia Lynn complained recently about lobbyists who were always on what she called the “gimme, gimme, gimme” side of things when asking for tax exemptions.

Still, she voted for that big sales tax increase on 3 million Kansans. Apparently their lobbyists weren’t as convincing as the lobbyists for the businesses that get to keep their “gimme, gimme, gimme” tax breaks from 2012.

Only Denning could be considered to having been pretty consistent in his (wrong) belief that it’s going to take higher taxes to balance the state budget. Several weeks ago, he unveiled a tax plan with seven separate tax increases in it.

He thought the Legislature would pretty easily pass that kind of plan, which it didn’t. A gas tax boost that he proposed, for instance, was not in the final package.

Still, the five Johnson Countians decided to approve the largest tax increase in state history on the backs of Kansans.

Let’s hope the House won’t like it enough to send it to Brownback.

All eyes locally will be on Johnson County Republicans, to see how they react to this unreasonable proposal.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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