You can often tell how good a measure will be for taxpayers and prosperity by how strongly the people who live on government spending protest. When they distort arguments to the point of lying, you know it’s going to be really bad for them if a measure passes — and really good for everyone else. Proposition K, a proposal to reform property tax appraisals in Kansas, is such a case.
An example is the Kansas National Education Association. This organization is one of the most powerful lobbies in Kansas, and across the nation, for that matter. Their document Proposition K in focus: Destroying the Kansas tax base serves to illustrate the lengths to which these people will go to protect their revenue stream.
For example, here’s something: “Kansas schools depend to a large extent on a statewide 20 mill property tax levy augmented by the local option budget (LOB) which is also a property tax levy.”
But what do the actual numbers say? The Governor’s Budget Report for 2010 tells us that for the fiscal year 2009 budget (approved), total school funding (general state aid, special education aid, local option budget, KPERS employee contributions, and capital outlay aid) totaled $3,779,346,641. The 20 mill property tax levy generated $560,060,359, or about 15% of the total spending.
Adding the LOB spending gets to about 24%. Is this the “large extent” that the KNEA writes about?
Here’s something else. Proposition K would limit the rate of growth of property value for tax purposes to 2% per year. Evidently the KNEA thinks this also limits the growth rate of property tax revenue to the same rate: “This means that the revenue collected under any property tax levy — including the 20 mill statewide levy — could not increase more than two percent. Therefore, state revenue to schools could not increase more than two percent in any year.”
This ignores a few things. First, property tax revenue increases not only from the increasing value of existing property, but also from new property as homes and other structures are built. This has amounted to about 3% growth each year. The KNEA doesn’t mention this.
Second, spending on schools in Kansas has increased much more rapidly than property tax revenue. It’s not the only source of school spending.
Then, of course, governments — state and local — are free to increase tax rates any time they wish. The KNEA document acknowledges this, but I think they realize this isn’t likely to happen as often as the KNEA likes.
Kansans should wonder if the KNEA is exaggerating for effect, or if they aren’t aware of the facts, or if they’re simply lying.