Gov. Kelly vetos flat-tax plan. What happens next?

By Blaise Mesa/Wichita Beacon | January 28, 2024

A Republican-led Kansas tax plan that would bring $1.6 billion in tax cuts over three years was vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor on Friday.
Now, the Legislature and governor prepare for a bitter fight over taxes that makes it unclear whether Kansans will get a tax break — or what form it might take.
Republican and Democratic tax plans had similarities — like cutting the sales tax on food and property tax relief. But they’re at odds on a single-rate tax plan. The plan passed by the Legislature would tax everyone’s income at 5.25% instead of the existing progressive system that taxes higher earners at steeper rates.
Gov. Laura Kelly said that flat tax favors the rich and she’ll never sign it. Republicans say it’s simple, fair and their top priority.
Lawmakers and the governor feel Kansas can afford tax breaks because the state has a multibillion-dollar surplus. But both sides have dug in their heels. Here’s what happens next:

Can Republicans override a Laura Kelly veto?
To override a veto, Republicans need 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House. The Senate approved the flat tax with 25 votes and the House had 81. But both chambers had lawmakers who weren’t present when the votes were taken.
The House likely has enough votes to override a veto when all its members are present, but that path is murkier in the Senate. The Republican plan is dead if nobody flips their vote.

Will Democrats back the Republican plan?
It’s never clear how politicians will vote on specific issues, but Republican Senate leadership said Democrats are interested in their plan.

Will politician squabbling mean I don’t get a tax break?
If the flat tax fails, Kansas lawmakers could end the session without any tax breaks. But Kelly said she would call a special session, which forces lawmakers to come back to Topeka. Those lawmakers don’t have to pass a tax plan, but they at least need to show back up to the Statehouse.
The normal legislative session typically wraps up in April.

Is there a limit on special sessions?
Kelly could keep calling lawmakers back to the Statehouse over and over until they pass something. She could also just call them back once, but that decision is up to her. Lawmakers aren’t allowed to raise campaign funds while in session, so calling them back for a special session means less time to raise funds during an election year.