Two Kansas lawmakers expressed their desire for simplification of the Kansas tax system, but failed to put these desires into practice when given the opportunity to do so.
Yesterday the Kansas House of Representatives gave initial passage to SB 430. This bill, which I testified against in the House Taxation Committee when in a different form, expands several tax credit programs. These programs spend money through the tax system, and are an example of how Kansas tax law becomes more complicated.
If the legislature wants to give money to people for any reason, it could simply pass laws that establish grants. Instead, lawmakers created a complicated system that is difficult to understand, is not efficient, and is not tracked anywhere near accurately, according to a legislative study. In effect, legislators are using the tax system for appropriations, thereby avoiding the usual scrutiny that accompanies state expenditures — as such scrutiny exists.
Shortly after the passage of this bill Richard Carlson, a Republican from St. Marys who is chairman of the tax committee, took to the floor of the House of Representatives to speak in favor of a different bill. He advocated for tax simplification, saying that “we have a convoluted tax system in Kansas.” He added that we need to move to simplify the tax system.
As chairman of the tax committee, however, he passed tax credit legislation that works against these goals. He could have stopped it. The chair has such power.
The tax committee also introduced a bill to create a committee to “study, make recommendations, and introduce legislation for a simplified state tax structure.” This bill, HB 2462, gained initial passage through the House yesterday.
The bill was sponsored by Olathe Republican Arlen Siegfreid. According to his news release, he testified in favor of this bill in committee, saying “Kansas tax policy is too complicated.” Siegfreid, however, as a member of the taxation committee amended the tax credit legislation to make it even more complicated, and was strongly in favor of the tax credit process.