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Archive for Thursday, January 2, 1992

T FORESEE TAX INCREASE

January 2, 1992

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Two Lawrence legislators contacted this morning say they agree with the comments of some leaders in the Kansas Legislature that there won't be much support for new tax revenue during the 1992 session.

However, a third local lawmaker says if legislators don't adequately fund social and education programs, that decision will come back to haunt them.

"There is a policy choice buffet that will be laid out for legislators this year, but we may not see the effects or benefits of them for years to come," said Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence.

"I think if we're going to maintain our resources, we have to develop our assets," he said. "If we don't, we're not building on what we have. Even the most conservative legislators don't believe we should institute policies that put homeless people on the streets, that put children in jeopardy of being abused or at risk."

But Solbach agreed that if no new money is put into the state's budgets this year to create new or enhance existing programs, legislators still can take action to make the taxing system more fair.

REPS. SANDY Praeger, R-Lawrence, and Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence, said they don't think the Legislature will increase revenue overall.

However, income taxes and sales taxes are likely to jump because most legislators and the governor will want to cut property taxes, they say. Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Both Praeger and Charlton said election-year politics will probably hold spending at current levels overall, with attempts made to reduce property taxes.

"I think we're going to have to look at our tax mix," Praeger said. "People are looking at property tax relief. You're looking at a tax shift. We may not increase revenues. But if we're going to have a property tax decrease, we're going to have shift the property tax to someplace else. And the logical place is income and sales tax."

IF PROPERTY taxes are lowered without any increases in other taxes to replace the revenue, big cuts in many programs would be inevitable, Praeger said.

"And I don't think people are going to accept that," she said. "It may be a wash in terms of revenue, but I think we've got to come up with some form of property tax relief."

Praeger says some of the state agency budgets can be decreased through more efficiency.

"We've got to look at the effectiveness of programs," she said.

Charlton said she bases her opinion that no new revenue will be raised on Gov. Joan Finney's stand against a tax increase.

"I do agree with the governor that a recession is a bad time to increase taxes and that we'd be better to redistribute the load and kind of go where the money is, such as upper incomes, rather than have a general tax increase," Charlton said.

SHE SAID tax shifts to provide property tax relief are the only kind of tax increase the governor will accept.

Increases in some taxes to finance the state's public schools, which now are heavily dependent on property taxes, might be acceptable to the governor if property taxes were cut, Charlton said.

"You can't change one without changing the other," she said. "To finance any other programs, it seems we would have to have veto-proof majorities in both chambers, which is highly unlikely."

She said it's commonly accepted that legislators probably won't raise taxes in an election year.

"It's been done in the past," she said. "But challengers to incumbents can say he or she voted to raise your taxes. And with the Senate and the House both being up for election this year, that will probably influence some members' votes."

SOLBACH said he has had heard from several constituents who have told him they don't think state income taxes are high enough.

"I still talk with people every week, people who make a lot of money, doctors, insurance company executives, even people whose incomes are very modest, who tell me they are ashamed of how little they send to the state in income tax," Solbach said. "I have a letter from a single woman who makes under $20,000 a year, said she was appalled at how little, if any, she paid in income tax. I have people who make over $200,000 a year who tell me privately how shocked and ashamed they are of how little they spend in income taxes."

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