- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers considered a proposal to increase the state sales tax Wednesday as the Legislature gathers ideas to close a looming budget deficit.

The House also rejected a bill on land annexation and postponed action on legislation that would declare fantasy sports legal in the state.

Under the proposal considered by the House Taxation Committee on Wednesday, the state sales tax would increase to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent. The move would raise an estimated $164 million in each of the next fiscal years, but much more would be needed to balance the state’s budget.

Here’s a look at the significant moves by the state Legislature:

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SALES TAX

The projected shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is about $800 million, but a proposed budget would narrow that to about $422 million.

Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer from Wichita said he is generally against increasing sales taxes because he views them as regressive, but said he might be able to support the move if food was exempted.

Taxation Committee Chairman Marvin Kleeb, a Republican from Overland Park, said he expects the Legislature will begin building consensus on the combination of tax increases needed to close the gap next week. He said he hopes the Legislature will emerge with something better than a short-term revenue fix.

“A common message from all the legislators that have given us input is that they want to have a structural adjustment to our tax policy, which will fund the state long-term,” Kleeb said.

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LAND ANNEXATION

The House voted 65-57 to reject a measure Wednesday that would have barred cities from annexing land without the approval of the relevant county commission.

Republican Rep. Ken Corbet from Topeka said he supported the measure, claiming that land annexations deprive counties of revenue and hurt residents of townships.

The bill also would have made tweaks to laws concerning auto maintenance bids, sewer district contracting and the governance of improvement districts.

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FANTASY SPORTS

The House postponed a vote on a bill that would define fantasy sports as legal, but a spokeswoman for House Speaker Ray Merrick said that the body would address it Thursday.

The measure would bring clarity to an ongoing dispute over the legal status of fantasy football leagues if passed by the House and signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The state’s gambling regulator announced in August it viewed private fantasy sports leagues as illegal lotteries. But Attorney General Derek Schmidt released an opinion in April asserting that they are legal games of skill.

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