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Our voice in Topeka

Representative of District 70

This past week we expected to review and work the House budget bill crafted by the House Appropriations Committee. Instead, it was put off until this week. Time will tell when we tackle it. We are slated to be here through Thursday and then go home and stay home until the veto session. The veto session begins April 28 and continues until we finish.

A seasoned House veteran said on the House floor March 24 that our House budget bill cuts education another $172 million, and that it cannot garner enough votes to pass. He asserted to all House members we cannot leave Topeka without a tax increase to balance the budget. Therefore, he proposed a ¼-cent sales tax increase and a 20-cent cigarette tax increase, stating those would raise the $172 million needed for kindergarten through 12th grade education funding, and school boards would know their funding is secure before their May 1 teacher notification date.

His proposal failed, but it did one very good thing — it broke the ice. Folks are talking about how to resolve this budget crisis.

While many think we can cut all agency budgets and trim more fat, the House veteran noted that the Appropriations Committee — a conservative committee that advocates cutting all the fat it can — had found little to delete from the Governor’s proposed budget (other than education, mentioned above), which to that veteran meant we had already cut about all we could without crippling the state’s essential services.

In the arena of taxes, I share the hope of balancing this budget without raising taxes. I find it problematic, however, for us in state government to clamor about no tax increase if we then foist an increase on local government. I think it shortsighted and ill-advised.

I suggest you refer to my March 17 column as it pertains to taxes, and refresh yourself on your preferences. You’ll see that 80 folks advocate raising property taxes. More than 800 advocate raising cigarette taxes and beer/alcohol taxes, and nearly 700 advocate an increase in sales tax, if taxes are to be raised.

If the legislature doesn’t act to provide sufficient funding to operate essential governmental functions then local school boards, with the blessing and encouragement of the legislature, will have to raise — which tax? — property tax because that’s the only tax school boards have the authority to use.

Cities and counties have both property taxes and sales taxes to raise revenue, but the property tax increase is still problematic, and a local-only sales tax increase isn’t much better. If the legislature takes the action, it can choose which tax or blend of taxes is best for Kansas, and it doesn’t pit one Kansas community against another.

On another matter, you may have heard about the EPA setting ozone rules and establishing a mandated smoke management plan. It threatens necessary burning of pastures in the Flint Hills. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1623 urges Congress to exempt the Flint Hills from the smoke management plan, and I support it. You might want to contact your U.S. Congress members to encourage them to put a halt to this EPA proposal.

Because of the upcoming break, please contact me by e-mail at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861 or call me at (620) 382-2133.

Last modified March 31, 2010

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