Topeka — Long-stalled negotiations between the Kansas House and Senate struck another impasse Friday when a morning meeting between the two chambers' designated budget bargainers was canceled.
Sen. Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover and chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he’d assured his House counterpart that the Senate was prepared to pass whatever budget bill could first get through the House.
“We were prepared to move,” he said.
Instead, Masterson said, Rep. Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republican and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, canceled Friday's 9 a.m. meeting.
“Negotiations have come to a halt,” Masterson said. “So it appears that whatever offer they had in mind could not pass the House.”
Rhoades told reporters there wasn’t enough time between the last budget negotiating round on Thursday evening and Friday morning to produce an offer to the Senate negotiators.
The new impasse followed a rare joint caucus of House and Senate Republicans earlier this week where efforts were made by Senate leaders to explain to House members why they should support the Senate's positions on budget and taxes.
“I’ve been here 23 years and that was my first joint caucus between House and Senate,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican.
The joint meeting came after House negotiators offered a compromise that among other things would keep in place a portion of the sales tax increase approved in 2010 to replenish state coffers weakened by the economic recession. Previously, the House was adamant about letting the current 6.3 percent tax drop to 5.7 percent on July 1. The Senate and governor have proposed keeping the full sales tax in place to help pay for massive income tax cuts signed into law last year.
The House offer was to reduce the sales tax to 6 percent. It also would incrementally reduce the bottom rate for individual state income taxpayers from 3 percent to 2.1 percent by 2018 and draw down the top rate from 4.9 percent to 3.8 percent over the same period. But by the end of work Friday, the Senate still had not responded to the offer.
Wagle, Masterson and other Senate leaders met with reporters Friday after both chambers had adjourned for the weekend.
“We are trying to develop long term spending and taxing policy,” Wagle said. “All of the bills that have passed have a cap on growth of government spending, and they all include a tax plan. So it is going to be harder to arrive at consensus when you’re looking at long term policy. It’s going to take more time.”
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