When legislators left Topeka last month for their annual break that precedes what traditionally is supposed to be a brief "veto session," there wasn't sufficient support in the House to extend a sales tax that is set to expire, or "sunset," on June 30.
The idea of voting to extend that tax likely has caused considerable angst on the part of many state representatives in recent weeks, but it is something they should do.
There is no joy to be found here in coming to that conclusion, but the alternative, at least at this point, is unacceptable.
Legislators have painted themselves into a corner on this one, in more ways than one. Last year, they passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed income tax cuts — without eliminating some income tax deductions that would have softened the blow to the state's coffers — that haven't had time to yield the promised fruit, economic growth and higher state revenues.
The loss of income is pinching the state's finances and a lot of money or a lot of spending cuts are necessary to balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The sales tax that is to expire June 30 is a source of additional dollars, several hundred million of them.
Legislators also have painted themselves into a corner in terms of time. They couldn't solve the budget problem before the recess and now must find a solution, one Brownback will sign off on, during the veto session, although the length of that session has proven to be flexible.
Brownback has shown no sign of yielding on his goal to eventually eliminate the state income tax. So there is no help to be found there.
During the recess, Brownback has been championing extension of the sales tax to maintain level funding of some services, including higher education.
Just how many votes the governor has swayed is unknown. Many Republican legislators have been criticizing for the past few years the 1 cent sales tax passed under a previous administration and the lawmakers who voted for it then, many of whom no longer serve in the Legislature. To vote to extend the sales tax in its entirety — 0.6 cents in to sunset while 0.4 cents will be retained to fund a transportation improvement program — is not something those who have been vehement in their opposition to it would relish.
They may find it to be a bitter pill, but it's one they should swallow.
Some elected officials at all levels of government delight in insisting all taxes are evil. But the simple truth is all levels of government are responsible for funding some services that cannot be ignored.
Ignoring that responsibility is not the answer.