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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 2002

ECO2 idea gets welcome reception

March 14, 2002

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— A proposal that could lead to a sales tax increase in Douglas County will probably clear its first legislative hurdle next week, the chairman of the House tax committee said Wednesday.

City, county and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce officials traveled to the Capitol to testify in support of the legislation during a public hearing.

After the committee meeting, Chairman John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, said he saw nothing wrong with the bill, and expected the committee would approve it along with several other measures that concern specific cities and counties.

"If locals want to pass a tax, let them do it. I think it's a one-minute debate," Edmonds said.

If approved by the Legislature and signed into law, the measure would allow Douglas County commissioners to place on the ballot a question asking voters whether they want to raise the sales tax by one-quarter of a cent. Under the proposal, funds raised by the increase would be used to preserve open space and economic development.

"These are symbiotic programs as jobs create income to support the community's growth and the open space creates a quality of life that attracts employers," Mayor Mike Rundle said.

The measure, which could be on the ballot as early as November, has been offered by a chamber of commerce task force called ECO2.

Douglas County Commissioner Charles Jones, Kelvin Heck, co-chairman of ECO2, and Larry Paine, city administrator of Baldwin, all spoke in favor of the bill. No one spoke against it.

The legislation is needed because under state law cities and counties can add 2 cents to the 4.9 cent state sales tax. That has already been done in Douglas County and Lawrence, which currently has a sales tax rate of 6.9 cents per $1.

To raise the tax rate more requires legislative approval. The sales tax increase bill is HB 2828.

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