Kansas Senate falls short in attempt to override governor’s veto of flat tax proposal

Senate President Ty Masterson says flat tax would benefit Kansans statewide

By: - April 26, 2023 4:20 pm

Senate President Ty Masterson said the senators who voted to sustain Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of a flat tax proposal showed hypocrisy. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Senators failed to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a flat tax proposal that primarily benefits the state’s wealthiest residents. 

The final tally during the Wednesday override attempt was 26-14, one vote short of the threshold needed to overrule Kelly’s veto. Some lawmakers expressed concern about the bill’s fiscal effects. 

“Our working class struggles with things like property tax. We’re at a point in our budget, in our fiscal responsibility coming out of the Brownback years where we need to be cautious,” said Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth. “We don’t know if we have enough money for the future five years without the stimulus money that’s coming in. We don’t need to be making this kind of change this year.” 

 The proposal, known as Senate Bill 169, was passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature before lawmakers adjourned in early April. The bill would implement a 5.15% income tax rate for all Kansans, decreasing revenue by an estimated $330 million each year.

The legislation would also accelerate $40 million in annual tax cuts for corporations, end the state sales tax on food a year early and provide $40 million in residential property tax relief. Kelly vetoed the bill Monday,  comparing the cuts to former Gov. Sam Brownback’s financially devastating tax “experiment.”

Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said he was voting in favor of the override for many reasons and believed the flat tax would provide relief for the “working poor” and other Kansans.  

“I vote ‘aye’ because it’s the right thing to do for Kansas, and the hypocrisy that you see in the ‘no’ votes is astonishing to me,” Masterson said. 

The bill originally passed the House 85-38 and the Senate 24-13. 

During the Wednesday vote, Sens. John Doll and Carolyn McGinn broke ranks to vote with the Democrats. McGinn had abstained from voting on the bill’s original passage in the Senate. Dennis Pyle, an Hiawatha Independent, also voted against the override.

Kansas Action for Children president John Wilson spoke in support of the sustained veto. 

Today, senators did the right thing by putting balanced state revenues ahead of tax cuts that would mostly benefit the wealthiest Kansans,” Wilson said. “The tax changes were short-sighted compared to the long-term stability needed to educate our kids, help families with health care, and achieve reasonable sales and property taxes for everyone.”

The veto override attempt was the first of several this week as the Legislature takes upon up about 20 budget line items and bills vetoed by Kelly in the days since the regular legislative session ended.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.