The governor’s budget and his tax plan are stirring debate in and out of Topeka.
Taxes was the top issue at a legislative coffee Saturday at The Well. The event was sponsored by the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and AT&T.
Last year, the Kansas Legislature passed aggressive income tax cuts.
This year, the Legislature likely will use it’s ending balance to make ends meet. However, with the budget year starting in July, the state is looking at a $267 million shortfall.
The governor has proposed making a temporary 6/10 cent sales tax permanent and eliminating the income tax deductions for property tax and home mortgage interest in order to close the gap.
Rep. Clark Shultz of McPherson, Sen. Jay Emler of Lindsborg and Rep. Don Schroeder of Hesston, who represents Moundridge, all said they did not think there would be enough support in the House or the Senate to pass the governor’s tax plan.
“We made a promise when we put on that tax three years ago that it was coming off,” Emler said. “A lot of people said, ‘Yeah right.’ I want to be able to show people if that is what we say we are going to do, then that is what we’re going to do.”
Shultz said he also did not support making the 6/10 cent temporary tax permanent.
He said it will be a little more difficult to predict what is going to happen on taxes in the House. Fifty-four of the 125 House members are freshmen this year.
Schroeder said he did not support making the sales tax permanent nor did he think it would pass.
However, he said cutting $267 million from the budget would be difficult. K-12 education accounts for more than half of the state general fund budget. If the state has to make $267 million in cuts, Schroeder said he doubted education would go untouched.
Audience member Jay Warner of McPherson said he supported a tax system that was equal to all businesses in the state.
“My business pays property taxes, pays income taxes and pays sales taxes,” he said. “I think there needs to be equity in paying taxes. I don’t think other businesses should be exempt from any taxes and all the taxes should be shifted to a business like mine.”
Shultz said he agreed the state needed to have a wide tax base.
Emler said both scientific polling and his own unofficial polling had shown Kansans are much more concerned about property tax rates as opposed to income tax rates, which the governor is seeking to eliminate.
“The governor thinks the elimination of income tax will drive business,” Emler said. “I disagree with that.”
Page 2 of 2 - Communications
Both Schroeder and Emler mentioned the Kansas Universal Services Fund in their remarks. The fund comes from a tax on all cell phone and landline services.
The money is used to provide phone services to rural areas where service would otherwise be cost prohibitive.
Schroeder said the House Utilities and Telecommunications Committee is trying to determine if money from this fund could be used to improve Internet service in rural communities. He said this is of special concern to Hillsboro, which is in his district.
Emler said the fund is very important to maintaining phone service for rural Kansas. He said one estimate revealed phone service in Ulysses could go from $18 to more than $100 per line without the fund.
Emler briefly touched on the issue of judge selection.
Instead of the appellate and supreme court judges being recommended by a committee, Brownback supports having judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.
Emler, who is an attorney and also has been a nominee for the Kansas Supreme Court, said he did not support the measure.
He said gubernatorial appointments to the courts would bring politics into the process and allow one party to stack the deck in the courts. He said this was not a negative comment about Brownback; however, the Legislature does not know what a governor might do in the future.
“We want the best system with the least amount of politics,” Emler said.