Taxes, budget & redistricting tie legislature in knots

A week after the scheduled end of the legislative session, and there's still no budget or redistricting agreement.

Former school principal Carolyn Bridges plans on running for Wichita's House District 83 seat--that is, if it turns out she still lives in District 83.

The legislative session runs into overtime as lawmakers struggle to agree on new House and Senate district boundaries.

Brandon Whipple chairs the Sedgwick County Democrats and ran for the House in 2010. He says by this time two years ago he was an official candidate, campaigning and raising money. 

This year, virtually all the candidates who have filed so far in Sedgwick County are incumbents. One of the obastacles for challengers has been collecting signatures to get on the ballot, when it's not clear who will be in their district.  (Read more about this issue below).

Tax Plan

The Kansas Senate has blocked debate on a compromise plan to cut income taxes, leaving the proposal's fate in doubt.
   
The Senate voted 21-18 Friday against removing a procedural hurdle to debating the measure. The proposal was drafted earlier this week by House and Senate negotiators.
   
The compromise would gradually lower individual income tax rates and eliminate income taxes for 191,000 businesses over six years.
   
A separate bill making the same cuts in one year has already gone to Gov. Sam Brownback. Some lawmakers fear the more aggressive measure would create massive budget problems.
   
But many senators had misgivings about the compromise and wanted negotiations to restart. However, House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, has said that won't happen.

Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement, "We will have pro-growth tax reform in Kansas this year that will create tens of thousands of jobs and will make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business.  I look forward to signing the bill on my desk and I call on legislators to finalize their work on the budget based on the enactment of Senate Sub. for HB 2117.  The legislative session needs to conclude.”

House minority leader Rep. Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) criticized both Republicans in the legislature and Gov. Brownback. "Our state has the ability to make a modest tax cut, but Governor Brownback intends to sign a tax plan that will leave our state with a budget deficit equal to one half of our state general fund. This pretty much gives the finger to the concept of fiscal responsibility. The recklessness of his action will result in deeper cuts to our public schools, more disabled Kansans left without critical services, and higher property taxes."

The Budget
   
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Senate has approved a revised version of its budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year, but there's no clear indication the proposal will go any further.
   
Friday's 32-6 vote sent the Senate plan to the House, where leaders have signaled they're unlikely to consider it.
   
The two chambers approved budgets of roughly $14 billion earlier in the session. Negotiators have been meeting off and on to try to work out the differences.
   
The new Senate version incorporates some of those compromises, as well as the Senate's positions on spending for education. School funding has been a major sticking point in the negotiations.
   
No additional negotiations were immediately scheduled Friday or for the weekend.

Redistricting
   
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislators who are struggling with redistricting are sending mixed signs about whether they're growing closer to agreeing on new political boundaries.
   
Senators who are negotiating redrawing the chamber's 40 districts said Friday that they were making some progress on ending an impasse among majority Republicans. But other senators suggested that the talks had all but broken off.
   
GOP conservatives and moderates have been at odds over how to draw Senate districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The two Republican factions will be seeking control of the Senate in GOP primaries this summer.
   
Meanwhile, the House gave first-round approval to a new plan for redrawing the state's four congressional districts. Members planned to take final action Saturday.