Archive for Saturday, January 8, 2005

Simons: Taxpayer bill of rights has allure, but also many drawbacks

January 8, 2005


It sounds good, but, as they say in the field of marketing and advertising, "You'd better read the fine print before making a final decision."

It is likely a resolution will be introduced early in the upcoming Kansas legislative session calling for approval of a "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" or, as it is known among legislators, TABOR.

If approved by two-thirds of the Kansas House and Senate members, the measure, which would be an amendment to the Kansas Constitution, also would require approval by Kansas voters.

It should be remembered at the outset this is not something Gov. Kathleen Sebelius could veto if she did not approve of it. If a sufficient number of House and Senate members approve the measure, it then goes directly to the people of Kansas for their approval or rejection.

Again, it sounds good and, chances are, if it gets out of the Legislature, it would be approved by the people of Kansas.

Who likes to pay new or higher taxes? The idea of forcing any state tax increase to be approved by the general public makes it highly unlikely many new taxes would be put into action.

Also, think about the time delay in getting a higher tax rate or a new tax approved in the House and Senate and then putting the question to a public vote in the form of a constitutional amendment. How long would it take between legislative approval and a statewide vote on the resolution? Then add on the time required for a new or higher tax to be placed on Kansas tax bills. One or, more likely, two years? Also, how about the cost of putting any new or increased tax proposal through this process?

It is believed approximately 60 members of the incoming Kansas House have indicated or signed a pledge that they will support TABOR. All it takes to put the resolution before the public is for two-thirds of House and Senate members to approve the measure. This means 84 of the 125-member House and 27 in the 40-member Senate. It looks like a very close vote.

There are some who will say this is the right direction to take in regard to tax matters and that the general citizenry should have the right to decide such matters. However, what about the idea that in a democratic republic, the public elects people to represent them in the Legislature, or in Congress, or on a city commission, and then lets them use their best judgment and experience to cast their votes in the best interests of their constituents?

In states where a TABOR-type plan has been enacted, there are all kinds of trouble. Anyone questioning the fallout of a taxpayer bill of rights needs to look no further than Colorado. They have a mess on their hands. The state is in trouble. In fact, most activities in which state revenues and state taxes are used to pay for services are in trouble.

It may be a catchy, enticing headline or an attractive effort, but it is an extremely serious matter, and serious-thinking taxpayers should let their legislators know their ideas or concerns about the matter.

Kansas is going to grow; there will be more people in the state year by year. These citizens expect the state to maintain current services and provide for new needs. More taxes or new taxes will be needed to pay the bills. This applies to city, county and state roads, schools from pre-kindergarten through college, law enforcement and health services, and the list goes on and on.

What happens to these services if there are no new or increased taxes to pay the guaranteed higher costs to manage these programs?

Kansas taxpayers need to learn as much as they can about TABOR, read the "fine print" and check with friends or acquaintances in Colorado, then contact their state legislators.

This is too important to leave to chance.

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