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Rep. Tim Hodge (D-North Newton) wrote a letter to Gov. Laura Kelly looking for some budget measures he believes can help families and small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
"We have faced things that are tougher than this before," Hodge said before adding, "this time we have to help the employees and small businesses that my district is filled with."
Measures he calls common sense, Hodge is looking for changes to sales tax collections and property tax collections. He also said Monday it is not enough.
"Our Kansas economy is not able to handle this," Hodge said. "There are ways that we could have been ready for this. We could have passed my bill to allow banks to do basically signature loans to get people through this. We could have passed a bill to give a childcare tax credit. This is what I rail on against the majority party all the time — they don’t do anything for the regular guy. Mark my words, if we are not thinking about it, all the bailout money will go to the banks again."
Hodge is asking the governor’s office to consider the suspension of sales and alcohol tax collections on businesses with revenue of less that $1 million per year. He compared the suspension of those taxes as an interest-free loan.
"This will help small businesses," Hodge said. "Small businesses will get stuck here. What we have to do is give small businesses a break."
The idea is that those businesses will not charge consumers the sales tax, which gives families a break on goods and services.
"They will not collect it at the front end," Hodge said. "After this blows over, we have to look if we can just waive it totally."
That means businesses not having to pay the sales tax to the state, either.
Hodge is also looking for tax changes to help agriculture producers with cash flow over the course of the next few months — namely pushing property tax collections back about five months.
"That is a big deal. They will not be able to make their payments with prices plummeting," Hodge said. "... They will get hit the hardest, and they always do."
He said pushing tax collections back several months will allow farmers to "secure the means to make those payments."
"Heck, you can’t get blood out of turnips," Hodge said. "... Why are we taking it from people who are going to get hurt the most — small businesses and regular employees. It is terrible."
Hodge told the Kansan he believes the Legislature needs to do more — and that it missed an opportunity to have done more to be prepared for a pandemic like COVID-19.
He is upset that the Legislature has been unable to expand Medicare in Kansas, among other things, that would have been helpful in the weeks ahead as residents of the state navigate the crisis.
"We have to help more with daycare bills and schools," Hodge said. "I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if people had health insurance right now? That’s one of the biggest cruelties in this. We sat up there fiddling around with nothing on the agenda for months when we had Medicaid that we should have been passing and we let that opportunity go flying by.
"The ineptitude of House leadership is staggering. Now when there is a crisis, they have no idea what to do except for people to show up while there is viruses everywhere."