HOLTON — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday praised Republican Sen. Dennis Pyle’s work to sustain Kelly’s vetoes of earlier tax-cut packages to create a bipartisan compromise.

Kelly said that while she was in the Senate, she watched Pyle, of Hiawatha, “work tirelessly” for 10 years to eliminate a state income tax on Social Security.

State taxes will be reduced by $1.2 billion through income and property tax cuts over the next three years. Kansas was one of 12 states to tax Social Security income. Kelly and Pyle worked together to eliminate that tax, which will save Kansas seniors more than $150 million in the first year, Pyle said. 

Kelly and Pyle appeared together in Hiawatha and Holton to promote the bill and for a ceremonial bill signing. Both cities are in Pyle’s distinct. Kelly said they chose the cities to recognize Pyle’s work. After three vetoes of previous plans, Kelly approved a tax-cut package passed on the June 18 special session. 

The bill took effect July 1. 

Pyle said his constituents are concerned with “ever-increasing” property taxes. A provision of the special session bill will exempt the first $75,000 of a home’s value from the statewide mill levy, compared with the current exemption of $42,000.

“I would like to see more property tax relief for all property types,” Pyle said. “But I appreciate Gov. Kelly for prioritizing property tax cuts.”

Kelly vetoed previous tax cuts proposals that were more expensive. 

Pyle “stuck with me to sustain those vetoes until we got a package that really eliminated the Social Security tax and some other things, but also left enough in the coffers for us to be able to pay our bills and fully fund our schools,” Kelly said.

The governor and lawmakers, sitting on a $3 billion surplus, were eager to cut taxes during an election year. GOP leaders originally introduced a flax tax plan, replacing the state’s three-tier income tax system with a single rate. Kelly vetoed that plan after an analysis showed it would mainly benefit the state’s top 20% of wage earners. The governor and legislative leaders eventually compromised on a plan that establishes a two-tier income tax structure, despite concerns that it still benefits higher wage earners. 

“It wasn’t easy,” Kelly said. “Legislative leadership made multiple attempts at unsustainable tax cuts that would eventually set us back to an era of crumbling roads and bridges and crippling debt.”

Mike Pirner, spokesman for Senate President Ty Masterson, and Carrie Rahfaldt, spokeswoman for House Speaker Dan Hawkins, didn’t respond to requests to comment for this story.

Kelly said in her time in the Senate, “all people talked about” was property tax. Kelly said she would have preferred more property tax cuts. She said that could be discussed during next year’s session.

“I’m not sure the state could do much more,” Kelly said. “So we’d have to look for avenues. But we have to wait till the numbers come in.”