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Kan. Senate endorses most Brownback tax proposals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas Senate committee on Tuesday endorsed most of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's plan for further overhauling the state's tax system, jettisoning one revenue-raising proposal that helps balance the budget while deferring a debate on other potentially unpopular provisions.

The GOP-dominated Assessment and Taxation Committee spent less than 10 minutes discussing a bill containing the governor's plan, which aims to position the state to eventually eliminate personal income taxes. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the full Senate for debate, possibly next week.

The committee endorsed Brownback's proposals to follow up on aggressive income tax cuts enacted last year by phasing in a second round of reductions in individual income tax rates over four years. The bill also promises rates would continue to drop in the future if the state experiences healthy economic growth.

But Brownback also proposed revenue-raising measures to stabilize the budget over the next few years. The committee backed his proposal to scrap a popular income tax deduction for the interest Kansans pay on their home mortgages and another measure to cancel a decrease in the state sales tax that is scheduled by law for July.

The committee rejected Brownback's proposal to eliminate a second income tax deduction, for the property taxes that Kansans pay on their homes. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Hutchinson Republican who serves on the tax committee, said many GOP senators didn't want to end two big tax breaks for homeowners at once.

Bruce, other legislators and groups watching the debate over Brownback's plan acknowledged that work on tax legislation is just beginning. The final version is likely to emerge from negotiations this spring between the House and Senate after each approves its own measure.

"This just kicks the can down the road," said Luke Bell, a vice president and lobbyist for the Kansas Association of Realtors, which strongly opposed Brownback's proposals to eliminate the tax breaks for homeowners.

Brownback is pitching his package of proposals as a five-year plan to put the state on a "glide path to zero" when it comes to individual income taxes. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan, who attended the committee's meeting, said the governor remains flexible about how to accomplish the goal while stabilizing the budget.

In recent days, Democrats have harshly criticized Brownback's plan for concentrating on raising new revenues in its first three years and delaying most of the benefits from cuts in individual income tax rates until the fourth and fifth years. The bill endorsed by the committee nets the state $949 million in additional revenues over the three years starting in July, according to the Legislature's research staff.