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After Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a flat-tax plan, 'everything is still in play'

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly with Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins.
Dylan Lysen
Kansas News Service
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, center, appears with Republican leaders in the Kansas Legislature — House Speaker Dan Hawkins, left, and Senate President Ty Masterson, right — in January 2024.

With a budget surplus and a looming election, Republicans and Democrats in the Kansas Legislature have said it's necessary to pass tax relief this session. Journalists who cover the Kansas Statehouse have insights into how that might happen.

Kansans and their elected representatives appear eager for tax reform as the state enjoys a $3 billion budget surplus.

However, despite their supermajority in the Kansas Legislature, Republican lawmakers did not get enough votes on Feb. 20 to override Gov. Laura Kelly's earlier veto of a bill that would have instituted a flat income tax rate of 5.25%.

But that doesn't mean tax reform is impossible this session, said Sherman Smith, editor in chief of Kansas Reflector.

"Nothing is ever dead. Everything is still in play," he said, explaining that Republicans might now consider what to trade in order to pass a flat tax.

"Kelly has made it very clear that she wants Republicans to come to the table," added Katie Bernard, who covers Kansas politics and government for the Kansas City Star. "I think it was an interview on a different radio station, she said something to the tune of 'I will negotiate on almost any tax policy aside from the flat tax.'"

Smith noted there was bipartisan support in the Legislature for several ideas, including property tax relief, the standard deduction and a Social Security exemption.

"So I think there's going to be a lot of pressure to do something for tax relief," Smith said. "We just may not know until the final 72 hours what that looks like."

Smith and Bernard also spoke with Up to Date about Medicaid expansion, abortion, school funding and other topics lawmakers are considering.

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