December 4, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Kansans Want Spending Cuts; Lawmakers Propose New Taxes

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Despite a recent poll showing a large majority of Kansans prefer cutting government spending to increasing taxes, lawmakers continue to make proposals to increase taxes and other fees with no talk of slashing budgets to be found.

An odd House coalition of conservative lawmakers and Democrats attempted to lower the sales tax on food by 1 percent, but that proposal didn’t garner enough votes to squeak through a House that recently cheered a retroactive tax increase on every Kansan earning more than $15,000 per year.

Rep. John Whitmer

Rep. John Whitmer championed the food tax decrease. He proposed off-setting the $60 million in revenue by adding taxes on select services like Bingo cards, pet daycare, beauty salons, and lottery ticket sales.

A similar bill that adds sales taxes to select services passed the House. The bill raises some sales taxes effective July 1 with a promise to lower the food sales tax in 2020. Whitmer voted against it.

“I don’t trust that in two years, there’s not going to be a new legislature and a new Governor who will say, hey, we have an extra $56 million, let’s go spend that,” he says.

The legislature, he says, has a history of making promises it doesn’t keep.

“Right now, we’re about to roll back the LLC-tax incentive,” Whitmer says. “That’s another promises we made to businesses and we’re breaking it.”

The 2012 tax reform, which included the LLC-tax incentive, also included provisions to lower income tax rates for all Kansans, and eventually ratchet income taxes to zero. It appears legislators won’t keep that promise.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning is floating the idea of adding a fee to utility bills to increase education funding. The fee would add $2.25 to homeowners’ utility bills and even more to corporate utility bills.

That’s not the craziest proposition for adding taxpayer money to public education coffers. One House Committee proposal would add a tax on the taxes.

Three-quarters of respondents in a semi-annual Fort Hays State University poll supported cutting spending solely or a combination of budget cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. Of those, 32 percent favored making cuts to social services, another 30 percent favored cuts to higher education.

Only 8 percent of respondents supported increasing taxes on the middle class, and only 26 percent supported increasing taxes on small businesses.

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