Is there any way for Kansas taxpayers to escape tax increases this year?
Gov. Joan Finney has a plan that calls for fewer sales tax exemptions and added sales taxes on many services. Legislators don't seem eager to accept her proposal, but they haven't offered any other plan to deal with growing state needs.
Even if the Legislature doesn't approve sales tax increases, however, state taxpayers aren't likely to escape increased taxes. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. George Teagarden, D-LaCygne, has proposed a contingency plan for cutting state government costs in case the Legislature decides not to raise more revenue in the form of taxes. His targets? Teagarden would cut state spending by about $145 million mostly by freezing transfers from the state general fund to programs such as the school district income tax rebate fund, the local ad valorem tax reduction fund, the city-county revenue-sharing fund, the city-county highway fund and the state highway fund.
That may help the state budget, but it doesn't solve the problems for taxpayers. Most of the programs Teagarden has targeted are funds that distribute money to local governments cities, counties, school districts. Without that money, those governmental units will have to look elsewhere to make up the loss. Where will they start? With the local property taxpayers, the prime source of funding for local government.
There seems to be little concrete action in the Legislature concerning a budget plan. The later in the legislative session that the budget debate comes to the surface, the more likely it is legislators will take some unwise or unfair action. Hopefully, the Teagarden plan for "pass-the-buck" taxes isn't the final result.