Local elected officials will have to be honest about the entire property tax increase they impose starting next year. The Truth in Taxation measure originally in Senate Bill 294 passed the Legislature last week, along with two other property tax reforms.
The Senate packaged SB 294 with SB 295 (prohibiting routine maintenance and replacement from increasing home valuations) in Senate Substitute for House Bill 2118. The new bill also includes a waiver of penalties and interest on late property tax payments that were due May 10, provided payment is made by August 10, and allows county treasurers to set up payment plans for property taxes. Senator Tom Holland added an amendment eliminating two property refund programs and instead, giving property tax rebates to seniors with incomes below $50,000 and who live in homes valued below $350,000 that are paid off.
Instead of voting on the bill, the House sent it to conference committee, where it was amended into House Bill 2702, absent Holland’s amendment. HB 2702 also requires paid tax return preparers to sign any income tax return prepared by or substantially prepared by the preparer and to include the preparer’s federal preparer tax identification number on any such return. HB 2702 went back to the Senate, where it passed by a 35-2 vote. Senators Randal Hardy (R-Salina) and John Skubal (R-Overland Park) voted against property tax reform; senators Marci Franciso (D-Lawrence), Pat Pettey (D-Kansas City), and Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) were present but passed.
Back in the House, Rep. Jim Gartner (D-Topeka) attempted to kill the bill by making a motion to send it back to committee. Gartner and 44 others who supported his motion knew there was no time for another conference committee meeting, so it was really an attempt to kill property tax reform. They said they wanted the bill amended to delay implementation of Truth in Taxation until 2022 because local governments are busy dealing with the COVID situation and they didn’t want to burden them with more work next summer. That extra work entails sending a letter to property owners notifying them of the city or county’s intent to raise property taxes, hold a meeting for public input, and then vote on the entire tax increase they impose.
After Gartner’s motion failed 45-72, the House passed HB 2702 by a vote of 89-28, with seven representatives absent and not voting. The original vote was 84-33, but legislators are allowed to change the voters before final recording, and five of them changed to give the appearance of being in favor of property tax reform. Those names aren’t available and neither are the 45 who voted to send the bill back to committee, because those votes aren’t recorded.
HB 2702 was unusual for the number of legislators who crossed party lines. Thirteen Democrats voted in favor of property tax reforms and 23 voted against. Most Republicans voted for the bill but five (Susan Concannon, Brad Ralph, Bill Rhiley, Mark Samsel, and Jene Vickrey) voted against it.
Governor Laura Kelly has ten days to sign the bill, veto it, or allow the bill to become law without her signature.