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Our voice in Topeka

Representative of District 70

We just finished what was to have been the one and only week of the wrap-up session. I predict we will wind it up, perhaps in the wee hours of Mother’s Day Sunday; I hope not that late. We have no budget reconciliation bill, and we need one. The revenue estimates are low — way low.

Last week Governor Sebelius was appointed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. That led to Mark Parkinson being sworn in as our new governor. One of the week’s highlights was Parkinson’s address Thursday to the joint session of the House and Senate. I suggest you find his speech online and watch it, or write me. I can send you a copy.

If you get a phone call saying, I want to raise taxes, please remember that is not true. I oppose continuing cuts of the franchise tax from its already-reduced rate while in a budget crisis. Also, I will be one of the first to say that businesses’ real property tax is way out of line; failing to pay the slider (explained below) would have caused higher real estate tax rates on business property and homes, so my advocacy of the franchise tax allows the slider to be paid, thus holding down real estate taxes in Marion, Chase, and Butler counties. Here is how we got into this predicament.

On Thursday, House members reviewed the Appropriations Committee’s budget. Being a budget, it has no revenue/tax matters in it; that is left to a separate bill, which could include tax increases (there are none), tax cuts, and what we love to call “revenue enhancements.” Those are not tax increases in the sense that income, sales, or property tax has a rate increase, but they affect tax collections by changing a current practice, such as delaying a tax cut that is going into effect, or taking someone else’s money (also called a “fee sweep”). I was informed the Tax Committee would meet early this week to look at revenue; to date it has not held one meeting. Instead, at a press conference held at the Kansas Chamber office, it was announced, effectively, that the budget would be reconciled without additional revenue, solely with tax cuts.

That sounds great — the problem is we are in a major recession and shrinking government that much means firing workers when there are no other jobs available, don’t help physically or developmentally disabled people, stop services to the aging, stop road repair, don’t pay local government revenue sharing, and a host of other things.

To make the necessary additional cuts, Appropriations then added a five percent pay reduction for fiscal year 2010 for all state workers — janitors, secretaries, the Governor, the Supreme Court, legislators, and all other state employees. While five percent is tough if you have a $70,000 salary and a house payment, try feeding a family on $25,000, then reduce that by $1,250. We already pay our state workers less than most states. More importantly, we were asked to cut workers’ pay just after the announcement at the Kansas Chamber office that there would be no revenue increases; translated, that meant while cutting state worker’s already-low salaries, we would not be delaying either the tax cuts to the corporate franchise tax, or the tax rate cuts on corporate income taxes.

On another “revenue” issue, the 2005 or 2006 legislature abolished, over time, property tax on machinery and equipment and also promised local governments to “slide” state money to them to makeup the loss of those tax receipts. After I worked so hard in the 2009 rescission bill to assure those “slider” payments would be sent to our counties and cities, I saw in this 2010 Appropriations bill that I was expected to vote in favor of cutting any slider payments to local governments, forcing your property taxes go up.

You now know why we defeated the House budget proposal; there are other issues, but those are the biggies. FYI: The franchise tax is paid by corporations with more than $1 million in assets and is paid both by companies located in Kansas AND those not located here but doing business here.

You can contact me by e-mail at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or

Last modified May 6, 2009

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