GOP and ex-GOP Legislators Promoting Higher Kansas Taxes

From Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


In a March 4 report on Democrat Washington Day events in Topeka, Hawver News Editor Martin Hawver told about two well known Republicans involved in this statewide Democratic Party event. First is former state representative and former house majority leader Joe Hoagland, ex-Rino Johnson County, who told Democrats that, “I’m never going back,” to the KS GOP. Hoagland also claimed that there were a number of fellow GOP “moderates” aka as liberals who would be joining him on becoming Democrats. None were named in this article. Hoagland briefly flirted last year with challenging Sam Brownback in the 2004 GOP primary but decided not to do so.

Also attending this event was, as Hawver described him, “trial lawyer,” state Senator John Vratil, R-Johnson County. Vratil could have also been described as a school district attorney as well as Vice President of the Kansas senate or vice chairman of the senate’s education committee or chairman of the judiciary committee.

Hawver reported that Vratil wanted to see fellow trial attorney John Edwards speak to the Democrat gathering and was attending as a guest of the senate minority leader Tony Hensley. Hawver explicitly said that Vratil was definitely not following Joe Hoagland’s departure from the ranks of the northeast Kansas Rino’s for the Kansas Democratic Party. Regardless of how liberal Vratil can be (he has one of the lowest fiscal scores on KTN’s vote rating) I cannot see Sen. Vratil leaving the GOP while there are 30 Republicans out of 40 Kansas senate seats.

This is information that Kansas conservatives and folks interested in the Repubican Party in Kansas should know about concerning these efforts at “bipartisanship,” as well as a better understanding of the domination by tax ‘n spend, socially liberal Republicans in the Kansas senate’s current leadership. Soon, that leadership is expected to provide a “revenue enhancement” to help fund the second and third year school spending hike proposals coming out of the senate education committee and its liberal Republican leadership.

Last week the senate GOP majority passed a school spending bill that would increase state spending by almost $150 million a year above the current $2.7 billion for less than 445,000 FTE students in the FY 2006 budget. This bill would also require additional increases in local property taxes above this amount because of the state’s spending growth can automatically trigger higher school district spending within the state’s quite complicated school finance formula. Currently, if all state, local, and federal funds in the current budget year are spent, the average per pupil expenditures are budgeted at $10,162 in the 2004-05 school year.

Governor Sebelius, legislative Democrats, school district lobbyists and adminstrators as well as their attornies who are promoting the school finance litigation are all claiming that higher taxes must occur to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s January 3, 2005 school finance edict. The court’s decision, that cited several areas where public school funding should be increased, is not final but is subject to court revision on or after April 12, 2005.

The legislature is scheduled for an April 1, 2005 first adjournment but will return to Topeka for a three day “veto” or wrap up session on April 27. In 2002, then Governor Graves was successful in getting over $350 million in higher sales, gasoline, cigarette, business franchise, and other taxes enacted during this “veto” session. Since there is not a daily newspaper in this state with a daily circulation exceeding 5,000 a day that has opposed any of the numerous tax, fee, or other “revenue enhancements” that have become annual events in this state since 1999, the final outcome from this year’s legislature is quite uncertain.

Last week the Kansas senate rejected two separate proposals to raise state taxes. A proposal to add a 7.5% surcharge and give Kansas the highest personal income tax rate in our five state region was defeated with only nine votes cast in favor (6 Democrats and 3 Rino’s) proposed by Sen. Pete Brungardt, Rino-Salina. Manhattan Rino Senator Roger Reitz’s proposal to raise the state’s sales tax by 1/2 cent or almost 10 percent (current rate is 5.3%) received only five votes from tax ‘n spend liberal Republicans, but most of the senate Democrats passed on this vote.

The trial attorney heading up the plaintiffs in the Kansas Supreme Court lawsuit, Alan Rupe, is quote in today’s newspapers that both the senate and house passed school finance spending increase proposals are not adequate and in violation of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision. KTN has not been successful in convincing the legislature to add a provision to the school finance formula that would do three things critical for improving the deeply flawed and expensive school finance system in Kansas. The three changes are: 1) Require that all federal school funds be included in local school district budgets–currently, most Kansas school districts exclude federal title funds from their official budgets; 2) require voter approval for any local or state tax hikes for; and 3) cut state funding for any local school district that either challenges the constitutionality of school finance in Kansas or the adequacy of state funding. If the school district’s lost $5 in state funding for every $1 spent the previous year for school lawsuits, I think this litigation’s funding would dry up quickly. However, if I’m wrong, let’s cut the funding by $10.

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