Brownback says he may be ready to compromise on tax exemptions

Published: Jan. 17, 2017 at 10:45 PM CST
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One week after standing by his small business tax exemptions in his State of the State address, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he may be ready to compromise.

Brownback has protected the exemptions with a veto threat for years. Tuesday, he says he's ready to consider at least a partial repeal in order to make sure some essential services continue to operate.

Since the elections moved the statehouse toward the center politically, lawmakers have been talking about repealing the small business tax exemption.

Tuesday, Eyewitness News spoke with one small business owner who says it's about time the governor admits he made a mistake. But there are others who say even changing the exemption would be a mistake.

Sebastian Perez has run his painting and exteriors business in Wichita for more than a decade. He says the introduction of the small business tax exemption in 2012 did not change anything for him and he'd rather the money go to the state.

"Schools, jails, veteran assistance, military forces, that kind of stuff," Perez says.

In Topeka, an increasing number of lawmakers are calling for a repeal of the tax exemption they say costs the state $250 million a year.

Previously, Brownback threatened to veto any change, But now, he tells The Wichita Eagle he's willing to compromise on a partial rollback, perhaps something like putting a $250,000 cap on the exemption.

Perez sees that as a sign the entire exemption will eventually be gone, too.

"I think he eventually will grant it just to eliminate those tax breaks," Perez says. "I think it's a good way to say, 'Yeah, I could be wrong.'"

Other businesses, though, say they need the tax breaks to survive. And there are still lawmakers who say it doesn't matter what the governor says. They haven't changed their minds.

Rep. John Whitmer (R) Wichita, says it doesn't matter what the governor signs, he will vote against any tax increases.

Eyewitness News Political Reporter Pilar Pedraza spoke about the business tax exemptions with a lot of lawmakers over the past few weeks. While more than ever say they think some sort of rollback will happen this year, an equal number say there just aren't enough votes for any one plan to make it happen.