Topeka They've cut taxes and raised taxes, waived taxes and shifted taxes.
Now legislators are getting ready to take a sweeping look at the state tax system itself, which a new report says falls heaviest on low-income Kansans.
"I want us to get to thinking about tax policy in this state from a more comprehensive level," said Rep. Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, who is chair of a House-Senate committee studying tax issues in the run-up to the 2007 legislative session, which starts in January.
The committee will receive three tax studies and a report on local governmental debt at its next meeting Sept. 13.
One of the reports on who in Kansas has the largest tax burden already has been released.
The tax incidence study by John Wong, a professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, shows that low-income Kansans pay a higher percentage of their income for taxes than middle- and upper-income residents.
That means the tax system is regressive, especially the property tax, because "lower-income households tend to spend a higher proportion of income on housing than higher-income households," the study said.
The lowest income group in Kansas paid 23.6 percent of its income in property taxes, while the highest-income households paid 0.6 percent of their income in property taxes, the report said.
Kansas Action for Children issued a statement that said the regressive nature of the tax structure, coupled with numerous tax exemptions, has shifted much of the tax burden to Kansas families.
"The time has come to revisit and update the Kansas tax structure," the advocacy group said.
The group added that it would like to end enactments of special-interest tax exemptions and credits and instead widen the tax base.
"When more people pay a tax, the rate can be significantly lower," it said.
Wilk said he hoped the studies would provide the kind of information needed for lawmakers to make good choices on tax policy.
The proliferation of more than 75 sales tax exemptions "drives me insane," he said. And, he said, the state needs to do a better job of coordinating tax policy with local needs.
Bart Hildreth, director of the Kansas Public Finance Center at Wichita State, has been involved with numerous state tax and economic studies. He said the new studies should give lawmakers a road map.
"Our role is to put the information out and show a range of policy options that policymakers may want to consider," Hildreth said.
In addition to Wong's study on tax burden, the committee will consider one of his studies on the erosion of the sales tax base. Glenn Fisher, also a professor at Wichita State, will present a study on property tax issues, while Hildreth will provide an update on governmental debt.