Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

Taxes will hit Kansans’ wallets

From gasoline to cigarettes, prices will go up to alleviate financial crisis

May 19, 2002

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— In six weeks, the price of eating, driving and just living in Kansas will go up.

Faced with record deficits, a slumping economy and Gov. Bill Graves' threat to slash education and social services, lawmakers last week approved nearly $300 million in new taxes, most of which will take effect July 1.

Rep. Joann Freeborn, R-Concordia, fires a rubber band in the
Statehouse in Topeka. Some House members engaged in a rubber band
fight while they waited on a revenue package to come to the floor
for a vote early Friday morning. The Kansas Legislature put in
another lengthy day of negotiations while members attempted to wrap
up the longest session in Kansas history. Despite the frivolity
displayed on Friday, the mood at the Statehouse had been serious as
factions within the House struggled to agree upon a plan for a tax
increase.

Rep. Joann Freeborn, R-Concordia, fires a rubber band in the Statehouse in Topeka. Some House members engaged in a rubber band fight while they waited on a revenue package to come to the floor for a vote early Friday morning. The Kansas Legislature put in another lengthy day of negotiations while members attempted to wrap up the longest session in Kansas history. Despite the frivolity displayed on Friday, the mood at the Statehouse had been serious as factions within the House struggled to agree upon a plan for a tax increase.

The taxes will affect Kansans in all aspects of daily spending, from filling up at the pump to buying groceries.

And if you smoke, this might be a good time to quit or stock up.

Supporters of the tax increases say they hope Kansans will understand that more revenue is needed during a difficult economic time.

Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said he saw polling data that indicated a majority of Kansans supported tax increases to bridge the budget gap.

But Kerr, who is considering running for governor, said it remained to be seen whether the polling information would back up real-life opinions once the taxes are in place.

"I can't tell you I know the answer to that," he said.

Karl Peterjohn, executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, said the tax increases would "bite just about everyone, and in some cases bite hard."

Democrats, most of whom opposed the tax increases, say the increases will most hurt low-income Kansans. They point especially the increase in the state sales tax from 4.9 cents per dollar to 5.3 cents per dollar and the 46 cent-per-pack increase in cigarette taxes, which will increase another 9 cents in January. Currently the state tax on cigarettes is 24 cents per pack.

Missouri's gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon, while Kansas' tax will go from 21 cents per gallon to 23 cents per gallon July 1.

Democrats said they wanted to establish additional state income-tax brackets on wealthier Kansans, but Republicans refused to even discuss the issue.

"They drew a line in the sand. They said, 'We will not consider your ideas,'" said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.

But Republicans said it was the Democrats who wanted to obstruct progress to try to make GOP legislators look bad.

Regardless, Kansans will start plunking down more nickels and dimes.

Come July 1, the state sales tax on $100 of groceries will go to $5.30 from $4.90. A 20-gallon tank of gasoline will cost an additional 40 cents, and a pack of cigarettes now about $3.50 will be getting close to $4.

Peterjohn said the new taxes should be called "the western Missouri retail development act of 2002," because many Kansans near the border will have more incentive to shop in Missouri to take advantage of lower taxes.

In Missouri, the state sales tax rate is 4.225 cents per dollar and 1.225 cents per dollar on food. The Missouri cigarette tax is 17 cents per pack. Missouri's state gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon, while Kansas' rate of 21 cents per gallon will increase to 23 cents per gallon July 1.

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