Gov. Mike Hayden's plan to provide property tax relief by cutting economic development funds is another example of how a short-sighted approach could prove costly to the state in the long run.
Hayden and others appear panicked in their attempts to appease angry property taxpayers. Property tax relief is the No. 1 priority of this legislative session, Hayden declared during his State of the State address, and everything yes, everything else seems to be taking a back seat.
In the name of property tax relief, Hayden is willing to cut welfare benefits and university budgets. His plan also calls for cutting the budget of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., which supervises the five centers of excellence at state universities, by about a third.
Such measures are designed to fund what Hayden calls a "circuit breaker," a plan to provide property tax relief to people who saw the greatest tax increases following statewide reappraisal.
The circuit breaker is a Band-Aid approach to the problem. The long-term solution must be found in legislative action to fine-tune the appraisal and classification system and other efforts to take some of the burden off small property and business owners. Perhaps some plan is needed to help ease the property tax shock for low-income people or those on fixed incomes. But in many cases, those paying higher taxes now are only making up for years of lower taxes while their property was underappraised. It's not fair to squander other people's taxes and mortgage the future of the state simply to provide a quick fix for a relatively small number of property taxpayers.
Cuts that are being considered in education and economic development funds will have a devastating effect on the state's future. KTEC, for instance, is just getting started. Cutting off funds now could set its progress back for years.
If property taxpayers are outraged now, how much angrier will they be in a few years if the state fails to attract new industry and grow economically so that the property tax burden is spread over greater valuation?
Some immediate relief may be due to taxpayers hardest hit by reappraisal, but the concerns of angry property owners aren't the only factor the legislature must take into consideration as it looks at ways to bring state spending back in line. A quick fix that short-circuits the state's future economic health would be no bargain over the long haul.