As legislators in Topeka duke it out over the future of the state tax system, local residents are considering how changes could affect their pocket books.
Talks in Topeka are aimed at finding a compromise between the House and Senate on proposals to follow up massive income tax cuts enacted last year with additional cuts in rates. The state also must stabilize its budget, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback wants to cancel a decrease in the sales tax scheduled by law for July.
The Senate approved Brownback’s proposals on income tax cuts and keeping the sales tax rate at 6.3 percent. The House has passed legislation allowing the sales tax to drop to 5.7 percent as planned and making less aggressive income tax cuts. Senate GOP leaders contend the House’s proposals won’t allow significant, new income tax cuts or stabilize the budget past mid-2015, while top House Republicans believe Kansans want the sales tax to decline as promised.
Some McPherson residents said they would like to see the sales tax dropped but for varying reasons.
Art Hoch, a volunteer with the McPherson County Food Bank, said he has concerns about making the state’s revenue stream more dependent on sales tax versus income tax.
Hoch, a long-time Republican turned Democrat, said the regressive nature of sales tax will have an adverse affect on the poor.
“I think the Legislature has done a disservice to the state by taking the income tax out. I don’t agree with that,” Hoch said. “I see people coming into the food bank who are obviously hurting. They can’t get all their food there. (The sales tax) hurts them.”
However, Connie Blake, office manager for Churches United in Ministry in McPherson said she thought the sales tax should stay at its current level. Blake’s agency helped more than 1,000 individuals with low-incomes last year.
She said she thought the sales tax was needed to stabilize the state budget.
“If we leave it up, we will see more money coming back to the community,” she said, “It has been tight everywhere.”
She noted the Friendship Meal program at the McPherson Senior Center, a program she utilizes, has had its funding cut significantly in recent years.
Local retailers said lower taxes are a plus for the economy.
Ron Burgett of Burgett’s Furniture in McPherson said he would much rather see the sales tax reduced.
“I am always against raising taxes. It is common sense,” he said. “I am the one who has to collect it. I have to pay it to the state, and the state gives us nothing for our work,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Randy Hoffman, the owner of Furniture Store of Kansas in McPherson, said lower taxes across the board is the right economic move for Kansas.
He supports the governor’s plan to eliminate income taxes, supports lowering the sales tax and thinks the state should balance the budget by working more efficiently.
“I think there is no doubt the economy is affected in a negative way by higher taxes,” he said. “I think the government should do the same thing as I do in my business and not take in more revenue when it is not a revenue problem.
“I think the state can run on lower taxes. I think the state can operate more efficiently.”
Hoffman said he was concerned people in the state are struggling to make ends meet, and just $10 or $20 a month difference in sales tax could make a significant impact on families who are operating in the red.
Legislators must resolve tax issues to finish a state budget of roughly $14.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and wrap up business for the year.
Top leaders of the Kansas Legislature aren’t ruling out the possibility that its annual session might extend into next week.
In the Senate, leaders of its Republican majority already have scheduled sessions for Saturday and Sunday. In the House, Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell has warned fellow GOP members that it’s possible that lawmakers will still be meeting Monday. Republican leaders had promised the Legislature would finish in 80 days — shortening the normal scheduled time of its annual session by 10 days — but Wednesday was the 82nd day.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Cristina Janney at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @macsentinel.