Technically, the Kansas Legislature has wrapped up the 2022 session, and will return for a brief Veto Session to override or sustain vetoes made to bills by Governor Laura Kelly or to consider bills passed by either the Senate or the House, but not both legislative chambers. The Veto session was designed to be a clean-up of loose ends, but sometimes brings about bundles of legislation at the last minute.
This session, we have heard bills and voted on a wide variety of issues including mental health, electronic trust companies, foster care, water, nursing, robotic delivery of goods, railroads, elections and a bill that included 29 provisions to the tax code.
I would call those 29 provisions individual bills, but that would be a record for combining bills into one package. These provisions included breaks for Kansas taxpayers and most of them sound like a good idea, but some had never been heard and discussed in committee before being bundled. This is a slick way to sneak a bill through that normally would not have survived scrutiny. I do not support the “bundling of bills” and will continue to work against this action. We need legislators who will change the system, not manipulate it for their own special interests.
Redistricting: You are no doubt aware that every ten years we do a census count and adjust lines to equalize representation of Kansans through a process of redistricting. The proposed changes to District 68 that I represent, will see Chase County and Herington moving out of the district, adding southern Riley County and reversing Geary County by putting the eastern side in the district instead of the western side.
One goal of redistricting is to keep districts contiguous. Senator Jeff Longbine’s district will include all of Lyon, Morris and Geary County. Establishing these lines is not an easy task but the committee did a good job dealing with the population consolidation to the cities.
On a larger scale, Congressional Districts were also re-drawn to the detriment of Morris and Geary County. The new Congressional Districts pulls Morris and Geary Counties out of the First District which covers most of Western Kansas. The new map puts us into the Second district. We have issues that relate to the area west of us than east of us so in essence, we lose a voice in Washington. The courts will decide if it is fair.
Food sales tax: I’ve long supported the total elimination of food sales tax. This is an issue that I have supported for forty-plus years. I have seen the impact of Kansas food sales tax on Kansans as I have owned and operated grocery stores for most of my career. Kansas has some of the highest food sales tax rates in the entire country. That tax increases the annual food bill for families to about $500 per year – money that could be spent in local stores and restaurants to create jobs and boost the economy. The food sales tax is also a regressive tax that has a disproportionate impact on low-income families as they pay a higher percentage of annual income in food sales taxes.
In communities bordering other states, there is another impact. The advantage adjoining states have in lower tax rates costs Kansas taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars as we close retail operations along the border counties while providing an expanded customer base to other states. If you could save 5% or more on your total food bill by driving just a mile or two to another state, wouldn’t you? That hurts Kansas by lost jobs, revenue and associated business.
Historically the sales tax was 3%, but over the years, the state has neglected to return dollars to local governments and forced rate increases to county and city taxes closer to 10%, with the majority going to the state.
In hearings, there were two opponents to the bill who did not present a strong case. One group wanted the money for corporate tax reduction and the other was concerned their property tax would increase. Corporations received a windfall last year from the elimination of “Off Shore Income” returning to Kansas tax free. Everyone should have a corporation in the Cayman Islands! Who do you think should benefit from a tax cut – every person who buys groceries, or big corporations?
The other opposing group has an issue with property tax, which I will address in another column. Describing this tax, they compared it to fuel prices. If a station across town charges forty cents a gallon less, $2.99 vs $3.39, how many people would drive that distance? I’ve seen people drive 60 miles to save a dime! While shopping for food, they buy clothes, hardware and automobiles. Dollars spent out of state have a negative impact on property taxes and sales tax, not to mention losing employees and empty retail buildings off the tax roll.
People live where they shop, and this is a major contributor to the loss of population as we discovered in the latest census report. Labor rates, internet sales tax receipts, commodity prices etc. show no sign of slowing, and inflation will add millions of dollars.
Kansas revenues will benefit by eliminating the food tax and the dollars required to eliminate food sales tax are miniscule in comparison to the boost to the economy.
The question is: Who is going to get your tax dollars back from the state of Kansas? People who paid the tax and suffer with unsustainable property and sales tax rates, or multi-national corporations who make no secret of their goal to pay no taxes. Kansas government has $3,000,000,000 tax dollars that belong to you. I want to prudently invest in the future and return the surplus to those who own it.