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Kansas Lawmakers Reverse Governor's Massive Tax Cuts


One of the most dramatic and controversial tax experiments in America came crashing to an end last night in the Kansas State House. Sam Zeff of member station KCUR in Kansas City has this story.

SAM ZEFF, BYLINE: In 2012, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his conservative legislative allies passed a tax package that exempted many small businesses and farmers from state income tax. Brownback said it was the beginning of a march to zero income tax. Conservatives hailed him as a hero. Here he is on CNBC in April of 2012.


SAM BROWNBACK: So you really get your acceleration. This is like shooting adrenaline into the heart of growing the economy.

ZEFF: Except it didn't work. Kansas does have a historically low unemployment rate, but job growth has been sluggish. And the state was facing a billion-dollar deficit over the next two years until last night. That's when lawmakers overrode Brownback's veto of a tax plan, championed by moderate Republicans and Democrats.


TOM HOLLAND: Where's the common sense? We should have gotten off the crazy train a long time ago.

ZEFF: That's Democratic State Senator Tom Holland. The tax plan rolls back the small business exemptions and raises taxes $1.2 billion over the next two years to cover the deficit. It puts 300,000 Kansans back on the tax rolls. In the end, many of Brownback's conservative allies bolted and voted to override the veto, but not all. Senator Ty Masterson stuck with the governor.


TY MASTERSON: What we're doing is fleecing our constituents on the false premise that it must be done.

ZEFF: There were lots of handshakes and hugs after the vote, but there's unfinished business. The state Supreme Court has strongly suggested lawmakers spend more on education. A bill that would add almost 300 million new dollars into schools is still on Brownback's desk. Lawmakers are waiting to see if Brownback will sign the bill or if that's even enough money to pass constitutional muster. For NPR News, I'm Sam Zeff in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.

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