Tag Archives: Taxation

Tax reform and simplification

Writing from Orlando, Florida

Two recent Wall Street Journal articles (“A Golden Opportunity” in the November 1, 2005 issue, and “Triple Jeopardy” in the November 2, 2005 issue) make the case for simplification and reform of our current income tax system. In these articles we learn these things:

“… true reform — changing to a broad-based income or consumption levy that taxes income only once — could yield once-and-for-all annual household income gains of 9%.”

Our tax system has a bias against saving and investment. That slows capital formation and wage growth.

“It is the marginal tax rate — the rate on the additional dollar earned from work, saving or entrepreneurship — that sets incentives and governs the pro-growth gains from tax reform.”

“Eliminating the tax bias altogether in favor of employer-provided insurance is sound tax policy and would increase efficiency in health-care spending.” I have written in the past about how employer-provided health insurance is not good for our economy, or for consumers of insurance.

“A tax system should generate the government’s required revenue with as little economic distortion as possible, while distributing tax burdens fairly. It should not discourage work, saving or entrepreneurship more than is necessary, and it should not discourage individuals from acquiring the skills and education that will increase their productivity. It should not discourage investment, or favor investments in one asset over those in another. In short, an efficient tax system alters economic decision-making as little as possible.

“Although many see simplification as the primary goal of tax reform, promoting economic growth is a more important objective. Even in the relatively short run, the economic costs of a tax system that slows growth are likely to exceed compliance costs. U.S. households spend roughly 1% of GDP in complying with the income tax system. Halving the costs of compliance would be equivalent to raising GDP by one half of one percent — no minor accomplishment. The increase in GDP that might result from a tax reform that reduces tax burdens on investment and shifts the tax system toward a consumption tax are much larger.”

“Tax reform, as distinct from tax reduction, inevitably involves curtailing some entrenched tax benefits. If reform proposals are dissected by politicians in an attempt to promote provisions that reduce their constituents’ tax liabilities while excising those that increase constituents’ tax liabilities, reform will inevitably fail. But if reform proposals are viewed instead as a collection of provisions that leave most families in a position not very different from their current one, while also shifting the tax system toward a structure that will promote long-term economic growth and reduce the burden of tax compliance, then these proposals can command broad popular support and even enthusiasm. Genuine tax reform is a difficult process that requires commitment to the goal of creating a more efficient, simpler and fairer tax system.”

With so much to be gained, why isn’t there a rush to implement tax reform and simplification? The primary reason is that there are many special interest groups with a lot of political power that favor the present system. These interests include those industries and companies powerful enough to manipulate the tax system to their benefit. Politicians, of course, enjoy the present system, as it offers many ways to reward those who help them stay in office and increase their power. It also lets them influence the behavior of nearly everyone through manipulation of the activities that the tax code favors with deductions and breaks.

Sadly, neither promotes economic growth and prosperity, which is what would really benefit the average person. Instead, people cringe at the idea that they might not be able to deduct their home mortgage interest. In reality, the mortgage interest deduction is worth very little to most middle-income families. (I get the feeling sometimes that people think they get to deduct the interest from their tax liability rather than from their taxable income.) Considering today’s low mortgage interest rates, the relatively low marginal income tax rate many people pay, and the fact that the benefit of the deduction is only valuable to the extent it exceeds the standard deduction, many families may not see any benefit from the mortgage interest deduction. But they would probably revolt against any politician who supported its elimination.

Taxpayer Bill Of Rights (TABOR) eviscerated

By Karl Peterjohn

Governor Bill Owens won a Pyrrhic victory in his campaign to eliminate the Taxpayers Bill Of Rights (TABOR) limits on government growth in Colorado. Owens’ short lived Proposition C victory will lead to a host of long term consequences that are mainly negative for Coloradans looking for a better economic future for themselves and their families. Passage of Proposition C is huge defeat for economic freedom across the country and a setback for fiscal responsibility.

The passage of Proposition C will mark a key political and public policy turning point that ends Owens’ career as a fiscally conservative Republican. Owens is truly now a political lame-duck who will be known forever more as the individual primarily responsible for the demise of TABOR. Among fiscal conservatives nationwide he is now a political dead-duck. A couple of years ago National Review featured Owens as a potential presidential model for GOP conservatives. Now he is nothing more than another Republican office holder who “grew in office.”

While it is certainly true that the entire Colorado Democrat Party, their mainstream media allies, and the usual leftie academic types also bear significant responsibility for the outcome of this vote, the face on the evisceration of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights will be, and should be, Governor Bill Owens. Now, TABOR is wounded but it not dead. Here’s what the Left will target next based on the Kansas model.

The Left’s next step will be to figure out a similar evisceration of TABOR’s provisions affecting local governments spending in Colorado. Naturally, extending the time limit for TABOR’s evisceration at the state level will be needed, but that can wait for a couple of years until Democrats return to running all levers of power in state government in Colorado.

Owens success November 1 in passing Proposition C and possibly (the preliminary vote indicates a very narrow defeat for Proposition D that a re-count may reverese) Proposition D will lead to a host of long term negative consequences for Colorado. In the short run the state will be free to go on a spending spree. They will.

The state spending Bacchanalia will be certainly be followed by a fiscal hangover. The spending will be short run stimulative and long run drag on the state. This is not unexpected and in fact, there is a model for this pattern: California. Almost 20 years ago the Gann Amendement that limited state spending growth was a 1970’s (the Gann Amendment was enacted in the wake of Proposition 13) forefather of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. The spending lobbies in California hated it and roughly a decade after passing it, they succeeded in eliminating Gann.

California has fiscally struggled ever since this cap on government was terminated. Massive fiscal uncertainty was created and the California fiscal climate clouded up in the wake of this policy change. Next week a very pale imitation of a state spending limit will be voted upon in California as part of the four initiative package promoted there by Governor Schwarzennegger. A narrow, 52-48 percent Colorado majority has decided that California is the fiscal path to follow instead of the tried and true Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

As the fiscal hangover appears following the Colorado state spending spree in a few years this is will help my state, Kansas, compete with Colorado. The model Governor Owens and his bipartisan spending coalition has adopted is very similar to the pattern of higher spending adopted by Kansas’ nominally Republican Governor Bill Graves and a bipartisan majority of the Kansas legislature during his second term here (1999-2003). Record spending leading to more taxes leading to more economic stagnation leading to more Kansans leaving for states with more fiscally prudent policies. Kansans number one destination state to move to today is Texas according to census figures. The most delicious irony of the anti-TABOR campaign is the fact that the leading TABOR critic touring Kansas these days is Carol Hedges. She is one of many Kansans who have moved to Colorado which has a large number of expatriate Kansans.

These economic and demographic changes will take years and possibly even decades to fully play out. It is possible that a taxpayers bill of rights will eventually stage a comeback in Colorado, but that is unlikely for the rest of this decade. What is likely is resurrection of the Democratic Party as the Republicans fracture because of Owens’ fiscal apostasy in abandoning TABOR. The next governor of Colorado will be a Democrat.

In the decade before Coloradan’s adopted the Taxpayers Bill of Rights in 1992 there wasn’t much difference in economic growth between my state of Kansas and Colorado. Both states grew below the national average. Colorado did slightly better than Kansas. That lethargic growth ended in 1992 in Colorado with TABOR’s passage. The growth in Colorado compared to Kansas in the 13 years of TABOR was dramatic and compelling. Soon it will be gone. TABOR will be a memory for Coloradans and that state’s economy will drift back into the tax ‘n spend lethargy that is Kansas today. What a shame.

Reports of TABOR’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

by Alan Cobb

The supporters of Big Government were overjoyed this week when 52 percent of Colorado voters backed an effort to fix a glitch in that state’s hugely successful Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by allowing the state government to keep an estimated $3.7 billion in scheduled tax relief over the next five years.

This vote, they claimed, was a sign that the voters of Colorado had rejected their Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and that taxpayers across the nation should consider the Colorado vote a reason to oppose similar tax-and-spending limits in their own states.

On the contrary, what Coloradoans actually did on Tuesday is vote to make their Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights look more like the improved version that is currently being proposed here in Kansas and in more than 20 other states.

Colorado approved the nation’s first constitutional Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. It limits the growth in state spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth, and it requires voter approval before politicians can raise taxes or spend above that limit.

Since Colorado enacted its Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, millions of that state’s citizens have reaped the benefits. For example, in the eight years before Colorado voters enacted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), the state ranked 43rd nationally in median family income growth. Since then, Colorado is 7th. Before TABOR, Colorado ranked 33rd nationally in job growth. Since then, Colorado is 6th. Before TABOR, Colorado ranked 43rd nationally in economic growth per capita, and since then it ranks 7th. TABOR opponents give the credit for Colorado’s recent economic success to the Rocky Mountains, apparently forgetting that the Rockies didn’t just spring up from the Plains in the 1990s.

Still, like all first-of-its-kind products, Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights wasnt perfect. Think of Colorado’s TABOR as the first version of amazing new computer technology that helps millions of people become wealthier and more productive: overwhelmingly positive, a benefit to millions, but with a minor bug or two. In the case of Colorado’s TABOR, the bug is called the ratchet effect.

Under the ratchet effect, when state revenue levels dip during a recession, the TABOR limit drops with it, and it cant automatically increase to the pre-recession high-water mark. Colorado’s TABOR also doesnt have any effective “Rainy Day” funds that would smooth out budget shortfalls in the lean years. This ratchet effect, when coupled with a competing constitutional amendment unique to Colorado that mandates large automatic increases in education spending, can create a budget squeeze. Fortunately, this ratchet effect bug in Colorado’s TABOR version 1.0 has been corrected in the TABOR version 2.0 that is now being considered in other states.

It would obviously be ridiculous to declare the computer age dead or to call for the abolition of laptops because of a minor bug that can and will be fixed in subsequent versions. The cost of doing that would far outweigh the benefits that will come by improving and promoting a very effective and popular product.

Colorado’s voters did not throw out their Taxpayers Bill of Rights. They used their TABOR-provided right to temporarily suspended scheduled tax relief in an attempt to fix the ratchet effect — essentially trying to make their TABOR look a little more like the improved TABOR version 2.0 that is under consideration in other states.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ death have been greatly exaggerated. The truth is Colorado’s taxpayers just endorsed the improvements that we’ve proposed, which would help bring tax relief, economic freedom and a generally higher standard of living to millions of Americans, including many Kansans.

Alan Cobb is the Director of the Kansas chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

How About Something Simple Like the Truth

How About Something Simple Like the Truth
Alan Cobb, Americans For Prosperity, Kansas

I had a great time visiting 23 cities across Kansas last week to promote the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The number of supporters vastly outnumbered the opponents, but both sides had more folks come out than I ever imagined.

During the tour, several things became clear. While TABOR supporters offer hope and solutions to getting out of our economic slump, opponents offer nothing but nay-saying, scare tactics and misinformation.

In fact, the flagrantly dishonest information being spread is simply breathtaking.

Let’s remember all the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights does is allow Kansas voters to approve tax increases and spending increases above the rate of inflation plus population growth.

The purpose of TABOR is simple. Government should have to live within its means just as Kansas families and businesses do every day.

Opponents cite Colorado and make claims TABOR decimates the economy with few or no facts. The truth is Colorado has one of the strongest economies in America. How in the world Kansas’ Regents head Donna Shank could say that Colorado’s economy is “running on life support” makes one wonder.

Although Shank recently stated publicly she wanted to research the subject and ask “tough questions,” when she showed up at the American Dream Express bus stop in Liberal, she didn’t stay long enough for even an easy question. In fact, the short presentations made by myself, State Rep. Larry Powell and State Senator Tim Huelskamp didn’t elicit one question from Shank

For those unable to ask questions during our bus tour, below are myths and facts surrounding TABOR:

Myth: TABOR hurts the poor. Fact: Colorado’s poverty rate is lower than Kansas’
Myth: Thousands of teachers would be eliminated. Fact: Colorado has gained more than 11,000 teachers since 1994.
Myth: TABOR has hurt teachers in Colorado Fact: Colorado teachers are paid more than teachers in Kansas.
Myth: TABOR has devastated higher-ed in Colorado. Fact: U.S. News ranks the University of Colorado as the 78th best university in the country and ranks K.U. 97th. Colorado State was ranked 120th and K-State wasn’t ranked.

Kansas doesn’t have a state university among the best 120 masters-level universities in the county, and Colorado does.

Both K.U. and K-State have higher tuition than the Univ. of Colorado.

Myth: Colorado Gov. Owens wants to repeal TABOR. Fact: Gov. Owens has repeatedly stated he wishes Colorado’s TABOR was like Kansas’ TABOR.
Myth: Kansas government spending as a percent of income hasn’t changed over the last 30 years. Fact: State spending as a percent of income increased almost 50% over the last 30 years.
Myth: TABOR has devastated the Colorado economy. Fact: Prior to TABOR passing in Colorado in 1992, Kansas and Colorado’s economic growth was similar. From 1984 to 1992, Colorado ranked 43rd in median family income growth and Kansas ranked 48th. From 1992 to 2004, Kansas ranked 44th in family income growth and Colorado ranked 7th.

In 1980, Kansas per capita income rank was 16th, Colorado was 12th. By 2004, Kansas per capita income rank was 29th, Colorado was 8th.

From 1980 to 1992, Kansas ranked 43rd in productivity growth and Colorado ranked 26th. Colorado ranks 4th in productivity growth since 1992, Kansas ranks 37th.

Colorado ranks 1st in concentration of technology jobs, 2nd in number of new companies per capita, and 4th in estimated long-term job growth.

Let’s do a service to all interested in this debate and quit the ridiculous demagoguery.

There is a reason TABOR opponents have stooped to scare tactics in defense of the old “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. Scare tactics are what you use when you don’t have the facts on your side.

TABORTruth.org Not Quite So

Right away the website tabortruth.org states: “TABOR proponents are baiting citizens with the allure of tax cuts, …”

My understanding of proposals for a TABOR in Kansas doesn’t include tax cuts, except in one case. That’s because taxing and spending will proceed in this way: First, spend up to the limit imposed by the sum of inflation plus population growth. Then, put some tax money away in the emergency and budget stabilization fund. Then — and only then — if there were excess tax revenues, they would be sent back to the taxpayer. This doesn’t sound to me like much of a tax cut.

It is likely that politicians will vote to spend all they can under TABOR limits, so it is quite likely that Kansas spending and taxes will continue to rise. It’s just that now there is a limit on the rate of growth. In the peculiar language of Washington and Topeka, a reduction in the rate of growth is called a “cut,” so maybe in the hearts and minds of the authors of tabortruth.org, there will be “tax cuts.”

Fact Sheet: The Truth About Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment has been an overwhelming success in Colorado. Colorado’s TABOR has successfully restrained the growth of state government and allowed millions of taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Since Colorado enacted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992, the state has experienced one of the strongest economic growth rates in the country and has provided taxpayers with more than $3 billion in tax rebates and refunds.

Colorado experienced a challenge almost entirely because of Amendment 23 — a state constitutional amendment that mandates large increases in spending on education programs. The ultimate answer to Colorado’s budget challenge is the repeal of Amendment 23.

While Amendment 23 is the main cause of Colorado’s challenge, that state’s version of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights isn’t perfect. That’s exactly why the TABOR legislation proposed in Kansas includes key improvements that will help us achieve even better results than Colorado has enjoyed.

One key improvement we’re proposing to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Kansas is the inclusion of budget stabilization and emergency funds that will help us better deal with economic downturns. In periods of rapid economic growth, when revenue exceeds the TABOR limit, surplus revenue would be deposited into the emergency fund and budget stabilization fund. When the cap is reached on those funds, surplus revenue is then offset by tax cuts or tax rebates. In periods of recession, when revenue is falling, money is then transferred from the budget stabilization fund.

Another important improvement we’ve proposed to the TABOR in Kansas is the elimination of the so-called “ratchet-down” effect. In Colorado, when revenues drop during a recession, the TABOR spending and revenue limit drops to that lower level and will grow from there — even after the economy recovers and revenues bounce back. That’s not the way it’ll work in our state. Here, when revenues drop during a recession, the “Rainy Day” fund allows TABOR spending and revenue limit to remain at the pre-recession high-water mark and only kick back in after revenues recover to pre-recession levels.

These three key differences between a Kansas Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado’s — the absence of constitutionally mandated annual spending increases here, the ratchet-down correction, and the budget stabilization and emergency funds — means our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights will give us stronger economic growth, more tax relief and restrained government spending — without any of the minor side effects Colorado has experienced.

Courtesy of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas Chapter.

TABOR Fact Sheet: Kansas vs. Colorado

TABOR Fact Sheet: Kansas vs. Colorado

Estimated at 10.4 percent of income, Kansas’s state/local tax burden percentage ranks 14th highest nationally, well above the national average of 10.1 percent.

Kansas taxpayers pay $3,629 per-capita in state and local taxes.

Kansas ranks 32nd in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index: Missouri (11th), Oklahoma (14th), and Colorado (8th).

Source: Tax Foundation

Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights: GOOD FOR COLORADO…GOOD FOR KANSAS*

3-year average poverty rate, from 2002 to 2004

Colorado: 9.8 percent
Kansas: 10.7 percent

Change from 2003 to 2004

Colorado: .1 percent
Kansas: .7 percent

Since TABOR was enacted in Colorado in 1992:

Colorado ranks 3rd in population growth, Kansas ranks 36th.
Colorado ranks 3rd in personal income growth, Kansas ranks 41st.

In 1992

Colorado ranked 18th in per capita income
Kansas ranked 24th in per capita income

In 2003

Colorado ranked 9th in per capita income
Kansas ranked 28th. In per capita income
Colorado ranked 6th in per capita income growth
Kansas ranked 30th in per capita income growth

Since 1992

Colorado ranks 3rd in productivity growth
Kansas ranks 32nd in productivity growth
Prior to the passage of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Colorado in 1992, economic growth in Colorado and Kansas was similar.

From 1980 to 1992:

Kansas per capita income growth ranked 47th, Colorado was 34th.
Kansas ranked 25th in population growth, Colorado ranked 13th.

Income

Kansas rank for per capita income in 1980 was #16, Colorado was #12
Kansas rank for per capita income in 2004 was #29, Colorado was #8

Median Household income

1984 rank: Kansas 14, Colorado 10
2004 rank: Kansas 36, Colorado 10

State Economic Productivity (Gross State Product)**
Economic growth from 1980 – 1992

Colorado rank #26
Kansas rank #43

Economic growth from 1993 – 2003

Colorado rank #3
Kansas rank #37

Job Growth**
June 04 to June 05 private sector job growth:

Colorado ranks #16
Kansas ranks #32

June 03 to June 05 private sector job growth:

Colorado ranks #21
Kansas ranks #34

Education* **

Kansas 2003 Spending Per Student ($) 7,454
Colorado 2003 Spending Per Student ($) 7,384
Kansas Bachelor’s degree or higher, persons age 25+, 2000 25.8 percent
Coloardo Bachelor’s degree or higher, persons age 25+, 2000 32.7 percent

*U.S. Census Bureau
*Bureau of Economic Analysis
*Standard & Poor’s

Courtesy of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas Chapter.

Revenue Growth Lags As Kansas Falters

Revenue Growth Lags As Kansas Falters
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

In early August Governor Sebelius issued a news release praising the economic growth that had allowed state tax revenues to grow significantly in the fiscal year that ended June 30. In the state’s general fund revenues were 7.1 percent or $322 million above last year.

This seemingly good news hides a big problem. Kansas revenues are growing well below the national averages. We are also lagging behind our neighbors and this includes job growth too. Nationally, the Wall Street Journal reported in July that federal revenues were 14.6% above the same period last year or over $204 billion. Oklahoma’s state government is taking $150 million of their increased tax revenue to use to cut personal income taxes but they will also raise spending by $750 million more according to Budget and Tax News in August.

Why is Kansas economic growth lagging? Some tax collections are actually down. In 2002 the state’s cigarette tax was raised from 24 to 79 cents a pack. Naturally, tax collections soared in 2003 with this 229 percent tax hike. However, the state’s revenue per penny of cigarette taxes started to fall and has continued to decline. Total revenues are falling in the last two years and are now over $10 million below the 2003 high point.

Before the cigarette tax was raised, this levy generated about $2 million for every penny of tax. Now it is barely $1.5 million per penny. While total revenues are about $119 million, or 2 percent of the state’s revenues, the proposal by Governor Sebelius for another large, 50 cent a pack tax hike will just shift a lot of cigarette purchases out-of-state, to the internet, or other tax avoiding alternatives. Sadly, this is also leading to more illegal cigarette sales and smuggling.

Severance tax collections soared over 22 percent or over $18 million in the most recent fiscal year as oil and gas prices enjoyed large hikes. This tax collected over $100 million for the first time but is also just 2 percent of state tax collections.

Personal and corporate income tax receipts enjoyed a large percentage growth of 11.9 percent or $244 million above last year. This increase alone was 75 percent of the total increase in state general fund revenues. In contrast, Kansans are shopping outside of Kansas since sales tax collections grew only 2.2 percent or $35 million. Many Kansans, particularly those in eastern Kansas, have learned that the lower state tax rates on groceries, cigarettes, gasoline, beer and alcohol lead to lower prices in western Missouri and in other border states.

This might also explain the generally flat overall, but in some individual cases, declining tax collections the state has on various forms of alcohol and related products. The state’s cereal malt beverage tax collections actually dropped over 4 percent or $88 thousand last year.

The state’s 20 mill property tax for public schools is excluded from the official state revenue estimates. However, the increase in appraisals resulted in estimates of a $40 million hike in the state’s tax collections for this levy that is excluded from the official Kansas General Fund figures.

So the shifting changes in Kansas tax collections shows the mixed nature of the economic recovery in this state. This is an additional reason why Kansas cannot afford another new state spending spree next year.

#####

Karl Peterjohn is the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network and is a former news reporter and California Department of Finance budget analyst.

From Karl Peterjohn to Ann Mah

Here’s an open letter from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network to Kansas Representative Ann Mah, a Democrat from district 53, which is southeast Topeka and areas southeast of there. Rep. Mah scored 12.5 on KTN’s 2005 Legislative Vote Ranking, which places here very near the left end of the spectrum. In other words, she didn’t see many taxes she didn’t vote for. Organizations like KTN bring facts like these to the public’s attention. Sometimes politicians do not like being exposed in this way, and as we have learned, we can’t rely solely on Kansas newspapers and other Kansas news media to report all that we need to know.

Rep. Mah:

I have heard that you made some derogatory comments about Kansas Taxpayers Network and myself on Jim Cates radio program yesterday. I look forward to a public debate on Kansas fiscal issues with you to correct the left-wing misinformation you are spreading.

I would be interested in your source for your assertion that HB 2247 contained a $400 million increase in taxes. I heard many descriptions of this bill during the regular session but I did not see any Legislative Research or other analysis that contained this information at that time. Ooops, in re-reading your post you prefaced this with the word “..potential..,” well the KTN vote rating likes to deal with specifics, like the votes to raise income and sales taxes in 2004 passed the Kansas house with EVERY house Democrat voting for it. Sadly, many fiscally liberal Republicans joined in passing that bill out of the house, like Bill Kassebaum, Cindy Neighbor, Stan Dreher, Mary Compton, and others you didn’t get a chance to meet because they did not return to the 2005 legislature.

Like I said in my previous post the SB 3 legislation was much more important in school finance than HB 2247.

You should be aware that most of the recorded votes cast on bills during final action are often unanimous or close to unanimous with a member or two missing due to health or other excused absences. I find it odd that you would want KTN to include bills on modifying insurance statutes, grain elevator regulations, the color of lights in emergency vehicles or recorded votes on similar legislation for KTN’s vote rating. Have you extended your critique of KTN’s vote rating to the other organizations, like the teachers unions (KNEA) or Kansas chamber (KCCI) which also use a much smaller number of votes than the 457 cast during the legislative session?

I am sorry that you have overlooked the massive tax hikes that were enacted between 1999 and 2003 during the second Graves administration. The Graves administration raised sales, cigarette, business franchise, gasoline, “enhanced” revenues, and raised a variety of charges and other fees. These votes were included in our vote ratings for each of these years and are available for viewing at www.kansastaxpayers.com. More recent tax hike and fiscal votes from 2003-05 Kansas legislatures are there now too.

Since Governor Graves left office this trend has largely continued albeit at a reduced level since the unsuccessful effort to raise broadbased state taxes under Governor Sebelius’ leadership failed in 2004. Democrats lost seats in the Kansas house due to their support for higher spending and taxes last year.

Growing Kansas spending and taxes have occurred due to pressure from liberals and fiscal leftists supporting an expansion of Kansas spending in both major political parties in this state since the 1970’s. I heard that you are claiming that our vote rating is “partisan”. I would point out to you that the two lowest scores in the 2005 house rating is for two Republican house members. In 2004’s scorecard there were four senators who receive scores of zero. Three were Republicans.

I am sorry that you seem to be unable to comprehend the meaning of oligarchy and the damange created by the appointed Kansas Supreme Court as you as an elected official helped surrender your constitutional powers to the judges. The courts treated you and your 164 legislative colleagues in such contempt that they refused to even let any legislator appear before them before they issued their edicts. You helped to meekly surrender your powers as an elected official and violated your oath of office to defend the Kansas Constitution.

Our form of government is in jeopardy in this state due to this judicial usurpation of power that you and over 40 other house colleagues repeatedly surrendered during the special session. Sadly, only two Democrats in the legislature resisted this surrender. If this trend is not reversed the Kansas legislature will become an elected advisory body to the real power in this state: the appointed judiciary and the governor. I have heard a number of legislators on the floor of the house point this out to the entire house. I was disappointed that you and so many of your colleagues ignored this problem.

Kansas is in trouble. This state is stagnating economically due to hostile fiscal policies that have been created before you took office but also by these liberal/left wing policies that you are helping promote while you have been in elected office. I’ll provide you with some excellent commentary from a Kansas businessman that was posted earlier this week on www.kssmallbiz.com that discusses this economic trend. I could share with you stories about the odious “rich” that leftist politicians have helped drive out of this state but this action does have consequences. I hope you’ll read this commentary and see a private sector perspective and how this trend is occurring:

FUNDING OF BUSINESSES: A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE PART II
By Kenneth Daniel
August 31, 2005

In my article of last week, I made the point that the risk capital of businesses is almost exclusively made up of personal savings invested in the business by the owners plus profits left in the business. When we take money away from businesses in the form of taxes, we are curtailing their financial viability, their growth, and their ability to compete with businesses in lower-tax states.

Employees and others, including governments, that depend on our businesses to provide salaries and tax revenues are better off if businesses are financially sound than if they are not. And, we really, really want our businesses and their owners to park their wealth here instead of elsewhere to support jobs and generate taxes for Kansas.

What other things are preventing our business owners from keeping wealth here?

Last week the American Shareholders Association released a report on
the impact of the American Jobs Creation Act, signed into law in 2004 by President Bush. A provision of the act allows companies to bring their foreign profits back to the U.S. at an income tax rate of 5.25% instead of the normal 35% domestic rate.

Previously, companies had to leave the profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes, and wealth that could have supported jobs in the U.S. was left overseas. Among the study’s findings:

According to the International Strategy and Investment Group (ISI), 91 companies listed on the S&P 500 have repatriated more than $191 billion back to America that otherwise would have been invested in other countries.

JP Morgan estimates the provision will increase GDP by an additional 1 percent over the next two years.

JP Morgan further estimates $120 billion will be used for new investment, which will create 500,000 new jobs over the next two years.

The lesson here is the same – business wealth is good. We want and need our businesses to keep their money here. An interesting question is whether Kansas businesses that repatriate money will be hit with the full state income tax for doing so. If they are, multi-state businesses will almost certainly repatriate their profits to some other state that does not have a state corporate income tax.

Another way we punish our Kansas businesses for keeping their money here is through our Franchise Tax. Kansas is one of fewer than twenty states that have a stand-alone tax on the net worth of a business. The old adage is “if you want less of something, tax it”. Kansas apparently wants less business wealth in the state.

Kansas has yet another tax to punish business owners who keep their wealth here, and that is the estate tax. In 2010, when the federal estate tax goes away, Kansas will be one of fewer than twenty states with an estate tax. This is a virtual guarantee that our wealthiest business owners will retire elsewhere or sell their Kansas business interests so they can move their wealth. Even if they don’t, the business is at risk of losing part of its capital or of being sold to pay estate taxes.

Kansas is likely to continue to be one of the slowest-growing states as long as we continue to eat our business nest eggs with punitive taxes. Even when the business owners aren’t whining, those eggs are being eaten, and we will continue to ship most of our best and brightest kids to other states.

The federal government has figured this out. By lowering taxes on businesses and getting businesses to bring their wealth back to the U.S., the national economy is cooking along extremely well. Will we ever figure this out in Kansas?

— END —

Kenneth Daniel ([email protected]) is a Topeka small business owner and free-lance writer. He is publisher of www.kssmallbiz.com, a website dedicated to Kansas small business.

Sadly, the benefits from this 2004 federal legislation are likely to diminish in the near future. This is going to result in a reduction in the growth rate of state tax collections. This will make the legislature and governor’s job of finding more money to feed the avaricious and litigious spending lobbies even more difficult next year.

Unless the Kansas Supreme Court backs down from their spending edict (I don’t know why they would) the fiscal hole facing the governor and the legislature in 2006 is massive. If we follow the traditional Kansas path of raising taxes we will make our uncompetitive fiscal climate even worse. We will lag behind the rest of the country. This trend will worsen. Our young people will leave school with degrees but with few if any local job prospects. These young people will become “Kansas tourists,” who come back to their state at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or perhaps a week during the summer to visit their family after finding employment in more competitive parts of the country.

This is a terrible fiscal trend that I have been trying to stop for over a dozen years. Sadly, elected officials like yourself have succeeded in your liberal/leftist spending and tax policies across Kansas over a number of decades. Government’s share grows while the private sector recedes. I will look forward to debating you on fiscal issues on Jim Cates show in the near future.

The middle class you claim to represent is moving away from the Kansas state oligarchy by voting with their feet. Since the 2000 census Kansas has dropped behind Arkansas in population. Arkansas! In 2010 or 2020 this state will lose another congressional seat under current fiscal trends and we’ll have only three. Kansans may be limited at the ballot box (no property tax referendums, and very few other tax/bond votes–unlike CO, MO, & OK) but hard working Kansans can still vote with their feet.

Karl Peterjohn

Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session

Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session
June 29, 2005

“Americans for Prosperity — Kansas is pleased that both legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius have ruled out tax increases on Kansas families and businesses as a way to meet the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The tax burden on Kansans is already too high and combined with the private sector job losses it is clear that a tax increase would be not in the long term interests of our state. After the misguided tax increase effort of 2004 and the initial call in some quarters this year for a tax increase it is positive to see that legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius and legislative leaders have realized the need to set a new course.

We want to thank the literally thousands of Kansas citizens from across our state and from all walks of life who have called, written and met with their elected leaders to demand more efficient government, relief from higher taxes and a return to the entrepreneurial spirit that has made Kansas so great. These grassroots activists — many of whom are AFP-Kansas members — are helping bring a new political culture to our state.

As our elected leaders decide how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision requiring hundreds-of-millions of dollars in new education spending AFP-Kansas encourages them to consider ways to improve education results with forward-looking reforms. Like the vast majority of Kansans, we have supported needed funds for education. As a massive new infusion of tax dollars for education is considered, now is the time to make sure that Kansas’ children are receiving the full benefits of this money. That means actively looking for ways to get more dollars directly into classrooms instead of seeing them wasted on bureaucracy, giving parents greater input into their children’s education, and making sure that every child is given the very best opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Study after study has shown that spending more money does not increase the quality of education. Our focus needs to be on improving education for Kansas students, not on building a large bureaucracy that siphons money from the classroom.

We also applaud the efforts of those legislators pushing the Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the role of the courts vs.. the legislature in how taxes are levied and public funds are spent. The passage of this amendment will ensure that the public’s voice on spending and tax issues is not overruled by judges that face little public accountability and virtually no public input in their selection.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

By Alan Cobb, State Director of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas

Many would describe that much of Kansas is in decline. Over 75 percent of the counties in Kansas have lost population just since 2000. Over half of Kansas’ counties have fewer residents today than 1900.

Recently, the Associated Press reported that Kansas is in real danger of losing a Congressional seat during the next reapportionment because of anemic population growth. Kansas population growth from 2000 to 2004 was only 1.7 percent while the nation as a whole grew 4.3 percent. Sedgwick County’s growth was only 2.3% during this time. Kansas’ annual growth of less than one-half of one percent should startle anyone concerned about the future of our fine State.

No matter how you measure growth, Kansas is struggling, particularly when compared to the other 50 states. Kansas is in the bottom ten among states in population growth, income growth and job growth.

Unbelievably, this century Kansas has lost 16,700 private sector jobs while the government sector actually added 15,000 jobs.

The same week it was reported that Kansas may lose a Congressional seat, the Tax Foundation released a study that stated Kansas has the 15th highest state and local tax burden. We are tied with New Jersey and higher than Massachusetts and California. Kansas has a higher tax burden than all of our neighboring states except Nebraska.

Recently the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas compared every Kansas County that borders another State. Except for the Kansas counties bordering Nebraska, the Kansas counties fared worse than their neighbors in Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma when measuring economic activity, income growth and population growth.

Of the top twenty states in population growth this century, all but two states, Utah and Hawaii, have lower tax burdens than Kansas.

I have heard a Kansas legislator comment that that’s just the way it is; Kansas is a rural, Great Plains state and rural, Great Plains states aren’t growing. I do not believe that is true, but even if it were, I am not ready to accept that.

What are we to do about our population predicament? First we must decide that the lack of economic growth is a problem. And we must be brutally honest about the solutions. Is more government spending and taxation the solution? Are more government owned and constructed buildings the solutions for Wichita or Salina or Lakin?

Are we, as a State, willing to honestly assess our State’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary policy changes needed for growth?

Without any changes to the path we’re on, rural Kansas faces a bleak future.

I am not willing to accept the declining status quo as the best we can do, and I don’t think most Kansans are either.

What are we prepared to do?

Kansas Attorney General Has it Right

TOPEKA — Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, today released the following statement in response to the briefs filed in the State vs. Montoy case currently before the Kansas Supreme Court:

“As questions and concerns swirl about whether or not the Kansas Supreme Court can order a statewide tax increase, we applaud Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline for putting this issue to rest.

In a brief filed yesterday with the court and in response to questions from reporters, AG Kline said clearly that the Kansas Supreme Court does not have the authority to impose taxes or raises the current level of taxation.

From the summary of the brief filed by the Attorney General:

“The Kansas Constitution Prohibits the Supreme Court from Raising Taxes and Prohibits any Expenditure from the State General Fund from Occurring Unless Authorized by Laws Passed by the Legislature.” (emphasis added)

The bottom line is that the Legislature has the responsibility to tax and to fund schools appropriately. They’ve met that burden.

The Kansas Legislature and the Attorney General understand that our state’s taxpayers suffer the 15th worst state and local tax burden in the nation as a percentage of income. That’s an even heavier tax burden than citizens in the notoriously high-tax states of California and Massachusetts must carry! Also, our ranking this year is twice as bad as it was 20 years ago, when we ranked a much better 31st.

“The short-term solution to over-taxation in Kansas is for the legislature to continue rejecting any and all proposed tax increases, and the long-term solution is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. If Kansas had implemented a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992, taxpayers would have received $1.1 billion in tax rebates and reductions and we would have squirreled away $1.4 billion in Rainy Day funds that would have offset the budget shortfalls that occurred during the recent economic downturn. And Kansas taxpayers would have a little more money in their pockets as they file their taxes this week.”

The Decline of Kansas Documented By Census

By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Kansas is in a decline. This state is shrinking relative to its peers in the other 49 states. However, some might say, and with some degree of accuracy, that this trend is nothing new. It is clear that the size and impact of this decline is likely to shape this state throughout the first part of the 21st century.

April 21 the U.S. Census Department issued projections for population growth showing that Kansas population will grow at less than 1/3 of the rate of the rest of the country over the next 25 years. This followed Census data showing that over 3/4 of the Kansas counties have lost population since the 2000 census.

The relative decline of Kansas is continuing and this is most vividly demonstrated in the declining numbers of Kansans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is a little known fact that over a 40 year period ending after the 1930 census, there were eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas. At one time, Kansans represented over two percent of the national population.

Recently, Kansas slid and became just under one percent of the national population and if the census population trends occur, Kansas will soon see that number drop by 1/4 in the next 25 years. As the population has declined with the rest of the country so has the congressional delegation.

Kansas lost members of congress following the 1930, 1940, 1960, and 1990 censuses and is shrinking like a Florida glacier. In mid-April an Associated Press report quoted Xan Wedel, a researcher at K.U.’s Policy Research Institute, saying the state was at risk of losing another member in the house in 2010. If you think the big first congressional district is large today when there are four members, let your imagination consider how large it will be if there are only three, or later in this century only two. If the census forecast is correct the decline in Kansas, as represented by our shrinking congressional delegation, is continuing.

Kansas would be on track for a decline that could shrink this state’s delegation down to the size of Idaho or Rhode Island during the next 50 or 60 years. At the same time Kansas’ population declines, the states in our region that have placed limits on state and local government taxes and spending growth are growing faster. Colorado, which once

lagged behind Kansas in congressional representation but now has seven, will grow more than 3.5 times faster than Kansas. Missouri and Oklahoma will grow 50 percent faster than Kansas while Arkansas will pass Kansas too. Arkansas is growing more than twice as fast as Kansas. Only higher tax Nebraska is projected to grow at a lower rate than Kansas among our four adjacent states at only 6.4 percent.

Nationally, states without state income taxes will be growing much faster than the states that penalize income earners. The nine states without personal income taxes are projected to grow at twice the rate of the rest of the country. There is a wide variance between these nine states’ projected growth rates but Texas and Florida are both projected to gain three additional members each to their congressional delegations following the 2010 census. Florida is also projected to overtake struggling New York to become the third largest state in population in 2010. Texas, which is the number one state that Kansans are moving to when they leave, is already the second largest nationally.

These census figures demonstrate that Kansans can and do vote with their feet. As business and industry move to more competitive parts of the country Kansas is being left behind and the political and judicial leadership in Kansas is busy trying to raise income, sales, and other Kansas taxes. The tax and spend formula for state government in Kansas is leading to an economic failure that will destroy our future.

Tax funds finance Kansas school finance lawsuit

Contributed by Kansas Taxpayers Network


By Karl Peterjohn

There might not be funds for public school classrooms but for 15 Kansas school districts there is money for financing lawsuits. Since the 1998-99 school year, $2,095,020 has been spent in public funds to pay for the school finance litigation and lawsuit.

This outrage is a classic case of the school districts biting the state’s hand that fed the 300 Kansas school districts with over $2.7 billion in state funds. Of course, the state does not have any money that it has not taken from taxpayers so you and I pay our taxes to the schools and to the state paying for both the plaintiffs and defendants in this legal battle.

A portion of that money is taken by these school districts and then used to sue for more spending that will require higher taxes. Sadly, Kansas already has the highest property taxes on business in our five state region as well as the second highest taxes on homeowners too so this litigation worsens our tax climate.

This is not a new event. The school finance lawsuits stretch back into the late 1980’s. The lead attorney on the most recent lawsuit, Alan Rupe, has been involved in all of these cases going back to the 1980’s. The 15 school districts misusing their tax funds to finance these lawsuits are led by the Salina and Dodge City public schools. The other school districts financing this litigation are: Arkansas City, Augusta, Derby, El Dorado, Emporia, Fort Scott, Great Bend, Hays, Independence, Leavenworth, Manhattan, Newton, and Winfield (For a listing of the tax dollars spent for these lawsuits between 1998-to-2005 see www.kansastaxpayers.com).

If the legislative conservatives were serious about addressing the litigation crisis in Kansas public schools these expenditures would be stopped. This misuse of tax funds for trial attorneys should stop immediately. Any school finance legislation passed by the Kansas legislature that does not address this abuse of taxpayer funds is a disgrace.

Last year the Topeka public schools faced a financial scandal when it was revealed that roughly $1/2 million had been paid to pay fraudulent checks in central Asia. The schools had such lax financial controls that numerous bogus checks got paid. The schools continued to operate despite this long distance financial flim-flam. Sadly, the mainstream Kansas press outside of Topeka has largely ignored this scandal and treated it as an isolated event.

This is another indication that there are plenty of funds available for financing Kansas public schools. The latest federal data indicate that Kansans, despite having lower than average incomes, are paying substantially more than the national average for our public schools. Kansans are paying more per pupil than for public schools in our neighboring states too. Higher expenditures mean higher taxes. Being a high tax state is one of the reasons that Kansas has suffered the largest reduction in private sector jobs during this century according to federal data.

If the school districts can continue to litigate their way to higher taxes and spending by misusing tax dollars, the future of this state will be grim. Lawsuits promoting higher government spending and higher taxes will drive jobs and businesses to taxpayer friendlier states.

TABOR Criticism Analysis

From the introduction to an analysis by the Tax Foundation:

The state of Colorado is under assault. Opponents of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) are waging a well coordinated but misleading attack on Colorado’s reputation. This attack takes the form of a number of rankings and statistics that purport to show that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights has decimated Colorado. These rankings and statistics are based on the assumption that if Colorado ranks poorly on things like the adequacy of prenatal care and education spending, then Colorado is failing to adequately care for and educate its citizens, and that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights must be to blame. A closer look at the attacks shows that they fail to prove that the amount a state spends on health care and education determines quality, and they also fail to tell the whole truth about the rankings and statistics of the state of Colorado.

The full article is here: An Analysis of Misleading Attacks on Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Taxed Out of Business

From the Junction City Daily Union, March 24, 2005

By Kay Blanken
Special to The Daily Union

Friday evening, many of us in Junction City opened our newspaper to the headline, “Local Alco Closing Its Doors.” The Kansas City Star reported that 20 Alco stores across Kansas were closing their doors. This is a Kansas corporation that began in Abilene.

I, as a business person, am not surprised. Not just Alco is closing its doors; Kansas has lost many stores and companies in the past four years. Is it bad business practices? I don’t think so. Many of the companies and businesses have been successful for many years. What then is happening? Starting three years ago, the state began raising the fees to Kansas businesses and companies trying to make up for the budget shortfall that our Legislature created by overspending. This overspending came from both Republicans and Democrats. Because the Kansas Constitution forbids ending a year without a balanced budget, legislators had to find a way.

To balance the budget, the Legislature hit many businesses with fees that do not pertain to their type of business. You paid the fees or you risked forfeiting your business. Many of us have our life’s blood in these businesses. We paid the fees.

This year we again received a new shock. Businesses pay a franchise fee for the privilege of doing business in Kansas. On Feb. 7, Kansas businesses received notice that the franchise tax would max out at $5,008. This is based on the gross your business does before you pay any expenses. Two weeks later we received notice the maximum would be $20,000 — plus a $55 fee for the secretary of state. Here is the letter we received:

Dear Business Customer:

Last spring the Kansas Legislature passed SB 147, which requires businesses to pay a franchise tax (we have always paid a franchise tax) to the Kansas Department of Revenue and a separate franchise fee to the Secretary of State. Both are due the 15th day of the fourth month following the tax year end — e.g. April 15, 2005, for entities with a December 31, 2004, tax year end.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE — franchise tax (maximum $20,000.00)

Business entities that have $100,000.00 net worth or more must pay to the Kansas Department of Revenue a franchise tax of 0.125% of the total net worth. Business entities required to pay the tax will file a return with the Department of Revenue, which must be accompanied by taxpayer’s balance sheet. (I can’t find anyone who does not have to pay.)

Do not send your franchise fee and annual report to the Department of Revenue. Your business will forfeit if the correct annual report and franchise fee are not received by the Secretary of State on or before your forfeiture.

The letter goes on to tell us how to file and report. What it does not say is how we are to get the money to pay the franchise fee. Many of us in business are just now coming out of a very long downturn. Many have had to borrow money to keep their doors open, and then many have not made it.

Now many of you reading this will say, “This don’t affect me.” Sorry, but it does. Do you work for a business or company? If you do, you may not have a job for much longer. Or you may find yourself moving to a state that cares about the business and economic climate. Some of you may be saying, “This is only one tax. What’s the beef?” Wrong.

Businesses pay corporate income tax, which is 4 percent of net income. In addition, net income in excess of $50,000 is subject to a 3.35 percent surtax. The tax law goes on to say “Kansas corporate income tax is calculated using the apportioned net income and the corporate income tax rate of 4 percent for the first $50,000 and 7.35 percent for excess above $50,000.” Then businesses face insurance tax, 2 percent; intangible property tax, counties can tax up to 2.25 percent on intangible property; personal property tax; inventory tax; state sales tax 5.3 percent; city 1 percent; county 1 percent (at this time); unemployment insurance tax from 0.08 percent to 7.4 percent depending on our rating (our rating is based on the willingness of an employee performing his/her job); worker’s compensation insurance (premiums are calculated per $100 of annual employees wages; wonder why that pay raise didn’t come through?), property tax, 25 percent; Social Security tax, 7.65 percent — and I could go on with other licenses/permits and fees, both local and state. So why did Alco call it quits?

There are a lot of reasons why businesses cannot make it in today’s climate. Buying power is one. A small business pays more for goods than a large conglomerate. But we all pay the same type of taxes and have the same routine costs.

With Alco closing, Junction City, Geary County and USD 475 will still receive property taxes, but they will not receive the sales tax revenue Alco generated. And our community will no longer receive Alco’s charitable donations, leaving a lot of good projects to suffer.

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, a candidate for the local school board asked about school finance. The response from state Rep. Barbara Craft was, “We know we need more funding for schools, and maybe we will have to go to the businesses. Oh, maybe I had better rephrase that.”

The state’s mission statement is, “Our state is constitutionally restrained from overspending, providing a foundation of fiscal integrity for our business climate.” So what happened to throw the state so far off of its budget? Why are so many businesses closing or going out of state to do business? The last count I had was more than 1,300 businesses over three years, and I have no idea of how many jobs were lost. Why are cities raising the fees for services?

What affects business also affects you. It’s time we all became concerned and start asking our elected representatives the “why” questions.

Kay Blanken is a Junction City commissioner and co-owner of B&K Enterprises.

Sedgwick County Arena Sales Tax Ready to Pass

Following is a message from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network, regarding the debate over SB 58, allowing Sedgwick County to raise its sales tax to pay for the downtown Wichita arena. I listened to the (as Karl rightly characterises it) “debate.” Karl’s reporting of the legislative action and the effects the sales tax will have is accurate. (Someone called the sales tax the “Western Butler County Improvement Act.”)


After a relatively brief and lackluster debate, the 1 cent sales tax hike for the downtown arena in Wichita received preliminary approval in the Kansas house March 21 on a voice vote. SB 58 will be voted upon for final action tomorrow in the Kansas House of Representatives. This odious bill should have been amended but a bipartisan group of Wichita legislators worked hard and were successful in keeping it “clean” so there weren’t any amendments. An amendment would have required a conference committee and a delay in enacting this tax. SB 58 will be passed easily and signed by the governor within the next couple of weeks.

The closest amendment to getting added to this bill was a “prevailing wage,” amendment offered by Democrat Minority Leader McKinney that failed on a division vote (no roll call) with over 40 yes votes. Prevailing wage would require union wages for the construction of this project but even the Democrats did not press this very hard since they did not even bother forcing a roll call vote on this amendment.

After some desultory comments by proponents, Rep. Huebert offered an amendment to address the uniformity issue but then withdrew it following Rep. Wilk’s opposition and promise that the tax committee that Wilk chairs would take up this issue shortly.

Your tax dollars were hard at work lobbying. Two tax funded lobbyists from Sedgwick County along with Sen. Carolyn McGinn were there to follow the vote. Wichita had its contract lobbyist as well as city employee Jeanne Goodvin was there. Other tax funded organizations like Ed Wolverton from the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, Bob Hanson from the Sports Commission, and another sports commission board member Joe Johnston had lobbied the house members as they entered the chamber. A number of other business and labor lobbyists supporting the arena were also monitoring the desultory debate.

Huebert was the only member to oppose the bill during this “debate.” Steve spoke about his district’s opposition (2-to-1) and how this vote, where the county segment was opposed while the Wichita area was supportive (both voted 54-46 on their respective sides last November) might relate to a consolidation of government bill in Shawnee County’s vote on their city-county consolidation issue. The retroactive tax authorization WAS NOT EVEN MENTIONED in the debate.

Steve Brunk, who serves on the tax committee, “carried” the bill on the floor. Mario Goico, Brenda Landwehr, Jo Ann Pottorff, and Nile Dillmore all praised this measure in a form of Sedgwick County bipartisanship. Goico liked the eco-devo aspect while Pottorff praised the downtown revitalization with the waterwalk boondoggle for economic growth.

I have been told privately that there has been commitments for vote trading on this issue and other issues coming before the house that are of concern to non-Sedgwick County legislators. While there will certainly be a number of no votes cast on final action tomorrow, the final outcome is now clear. July 1 the sales tax rate in Sedgwick County will rise to 7.3% with the exception of Derby where it will rise to 7.8%. In a couple of years there will be a brand new pigeon coop, that lacks an anchor tenant, in downtown Wichita to add to the succession of money losing boondoggles that already litter the area.

If the Senator Hensley’s of the world prevail (he is the senate minority leader who issued his statewide tax hike plan last week), the 2005 legislature will soon pass a statewide sales tax hike and he would add at least another .2% to the figures cited in the previous sentence. The governor favors a statewide tax hike and there is talk of “rounding up” to say, an even 6 percent statewide. If that happens, there are parts of this state that will have total (state and local)sales tax rates approaching 10 percent.

The new millionaires who will be created through the prices the county will pay for the land it wants downtown for this boondoggle project will provide an interesting (but expensive) source of amusement in the near future too. It will also be interesting to see what portion of the construction labor used is “union” versus non union. Dale Swenson praised prevailing wage and other mandatory union wage rates like the federal government’s Davis-Bacon Act during the debate on that amendment.

As a frame of reference, New York City has a 8.625% sales tax rate. New York City does NOT tax groceries. I’ll let you decide, regardless of whether Kansas raises state rates or not, how we compare with a sales tax rate of 7.3%-or as much as-8.0%. If one of the tax raising legislators had not taken ill in the senate, the odds of a statewide tax hike raising the sales tax to 6.0% is not out of the question. Sedgwick County will have a high sales tax rate.

The only suggestion for Sedgwick County taxpayers that I can think of is that most of the cities in Butler County only have a 1/2 cent local sales tax, so their total is 5.8%. If you live in eastern Sedgwick County and want to save on grocery purchases, there is a Dillons at Andover Road and Kellogg. You should be able to save $1.50 on the purchase of $100 worth of groceries after July 1 based upon the variable local sales tax rates between Sedgwick and Butler counties.

I look forward to fulfilling my promise and including the recorded vote on final passage of SB 58 into the 2005 Kansas Taxpayers Network’s vote rating. Every legislator who cast an affirmative vote for SB 58 will have to bear some responsiblity for this looming boondoggle. The next battle will be trying to get this odious sales tax removed because a fiscal “crisis” in government will certainly appear before this tax expires. Rep. Huy was absent.

HCR 5009: An attempt to drive down property taxes

From Representative Frank Miller


The Kansas Legislative Research Department provided information substantiating that property taxes increased by 126 percent since 1993, yet the inflation rate adjusted for population growth increased only 43 percent! I don’t see how the appraised value of residential property could have risen 2.75 times faster than inflation adjusted for population growth! I would suggest that appraisers are encouraged to over-appraise property in order to satisfy the need for increased property taxes without increasing the mill levy. I authored this bill in the hopes of restraining appraisers from adjusting the value of your property to a value that is higher than market value. Is not the selling price of your home the only true value for “MARKET VALUE”?

The key wording in the resolution would change the Constitution as follows: “The legislature shall provide that the appraised valuation of real property used for residential purposes which has been sold shall be adjusted to an amount equal to the average of the appraised valuation of such real property when sold determined pursuant to law and the sales price of such real property when sold.”

The clearest way to explain what this resolution would do is to offer an example. Assume that the latest appraised value of your home is $50,000, but during the year you put your home up for sale. Let’s further assume that your asking price was $55,000, but after much time the best price you could get was only $40,000. The county appraiser would be required by this change in the constitution to reduce the appraised value to half the difference or to $45,000. Is not the closest value to true market value the price a house is sold for on the market? This change reduces, or in like manner increases, the appraised value of residential property in a fair manner and in a manner that mirrors much closer the true market value of property.

There is nothing in the bill prohibiting appraisers from adjusting the appraised value of your home the following year. However, property owners will have a much stronger argument if the new appraised value represents an unreasonable increase, and this is at the heart of this resolution. The resolution will check the tendency to over evaluate the appraised value of residential property.

What kind of sales does this apply to? This bill would apply to arm’s-length sales. You could not sell your house to a relative (i.e. son, wife, etc) in order to manipulate artificially the appraised value of your property. I think this bill would be very beneficial to Kansans in trying to keep the escalation of property taxes in check. Unfortunately, the resolution at this moment is stuck in the House Taxation Committee and likely will not get out of committee this year. I will be pushing this resolution again next year. Let me know what you think.

To contact Rep. Frank Miller write, telephone, or email to P.O. Box 665, Independence, KS, 67301, Tel: (Home) 620-331-0281; Topeka office 785-296-7646, Email [email protected] or [email protected] Take a look at Frank’s updated webpage www.frankmiller.org.

Affording Tax Cuts, or Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

The logic of paygo for taxes is backward, in that it starts from the assumption that all tax revenue is Washington’s in the first place and thus any tax cuts must be “offset” so Congress can be made whole. But of course the money belongs to the taxpayers who earned it, and the burden ought to be on the politicians to spend less so Americans can keep more. Republicans claim to believe this. (“Budget Irresolution,” The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005)

“Paygo” refers to the “pay-as-you-go” budget rules, which require that any tax cuts be offset by other tax increases. Alternatively, we often hear politicians at all levels claim that we can’t afford tax cuts.

If we stop and think for a moment, we should easily be able to recognize the absurdity of politicians claiming we can’t afford tax cuts. The mindset behind this is that the tax money belongs to the government in the first place, and if we are lucky enough, the politicians might cut our taxes a little, if they decide they can afford it.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial rightly says, the money is ours to begin with! How have we descended to the level where politicians don’t understand this, that is the taxpayer that can’t afford to pay taxes, that taxes are a drain on the growth of our economy?

Part of the answer may be found in the small book “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat. A link to an online version of it may be found on the “Other websites, resources” section of this website.

Let free markets determine downtown Wichita’s viability

“Wichita’s been an east/west town for as long as I can remember. Obviously, we’re trying to change that,” says Tom Johnson, president of the upcoming downtown project, WaterWalk. (Wichita Business Journal, March 4, 2005)

A healthy community needs a healthy downtown. … In Downtown, public investment has a proven track record of generating new, private investment. Since 1990, the government’s investment of $165 million has stimulated $248 million in private investment. (Voteyea.com website.)

“Anything downtown seems to be off-limits for criticism or analysis. I don’t know why it is,” Lambke said. (Council member Phil Lambke, Wichita Eagle, November 14, 2004)

If you listen to local Wichita news media, our local politicians, and various community advocates, the desirability of downtown development over other development is accepted as a given. But what people actually do with their own money is different.

Free markets, since they represent people voluntarily entering into transactions that they believe will benefit them, lead to the most equitable and efficient allocation of scarce resources. When left to their own free will, most people and businesses in Wichita have decided to purchase property somewhere other than downtown. I don’t know why people have made this choice, and that’s really not important to me. What is important to me is that people and businesses make the choice of where to invest voluntarily. By investing in parts of town other than downtown, they are assigning a higher value to non-downtown property. As far as I know, no one is forcing this decision. People and businesses make it of their own free will.

As it happens, some people don’t agree with the choices that most people and businesses have made. They believe that people and businesses should have purchased property downtown. They are, in effect, telling us that we have made a poor decision. They propose, and are in the process of doing just this, to trump the decisions of individuals and businesses with their own. They do this through the political process and the tax system. They take tax money and give it to businesses to induce them to locate downtown.

Why don’t businesses voluntarily locate downtown, using their own money? There can only be one answer to this question: When spending their own money, most businesses have decided that the most productive use of it is to invest it somewhere other than downtown Wichita.

It is adding insult to injury when we realize that the tax money given away comes largely from people who have voted — with their own dollars — not to do what these tax dollars are used to promote. It is a further blow when we realize that the money given to downtown businesses in the form of incentives makes our town poorer as a whole. Why is that? It’s because that most people and businesses, when exercising their own best judgment, have decided that investing in downtown Wichita is not the most productive use of their resources. When the government, using its power to tax, makes a different decision for us, resources are not allocated as efficiently and productively. Therefore, we are poorer.

The result of all this is that we have the spectacle of the people of Wichita, voting with their own dollars, making one choice. Then the politicians and various quasi-public organizations say, “No, citizens of Wichita, you are wrong,” and impose their will on the people of Wichita through their power to tax. How arrogant is that?