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Archive for Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Census: Kansas spends most on highways, higher ed

August 3, 2010

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— State and local governments in Kansas spend a greater share of their revenue on highways and higher education than most states, a new Census Bureau report shows.

Governments in Kansas also spend less on parks and recreation than their counterparts elsewhere, the figures show. And Kansas ranks near the bottom when it comes to spending on housing and environment.

The figures come from the 2008 Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finances, which found that Kansas governments —including state, cities, counties and school boards — generated $17.6 billion in revenue that year. Just over two-thirds of the total came from taxes.

The report, which was released in late July by the U.S. Census Bureau, said Kansas governments spent about a third of their revenue in 2008 on education.

About 64 percent of government income came from property, sales and income taxes.

Alan Conroy, director of the state Legislative Research Department, said those taxes are the “three-legged stool” of government income in Kansas and most states.

“Sometimes one leg may a get little longer than another, but I think that over time, you’ll see that Kansas has had of a mix of those three. All three of those sources have opponents and proponents.”

John Wong, interim director of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University, said spreading the tax burden softens the impact on governments when there are volatile swings in the economy.

“It’s not a bad thing to be balanced,” he said.

Conroy and Wong both said that states that are popular tourist attractions or are rich in natural resources often have different tax structures. That explains why seven states — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming — collected no personal income taxes in 2008.

The report said Kansas governments got 6.5 percent of their money in 2008 from higher education — most of it in the form of tuition paid by state university students.

The amount that Kansas governments collect in tuition and other university payments is above the national average of 4.9 percent, but lower than the rates in 18 other states.

The report said Kansas ranked sixth in its dependence on alcohol taxes and 34th in its dependence on taxes on tobacco. Those sources each generated less than 1 percent of the state’s revenue in 2008.

Near the bottom of the list of expenses, the report said Kansas governments spent 0.5 percent of their money on libraries in 2008 — the 11th highest rate in the country. The state spent 0.3 percent of its funds on air transportation, ranking 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report said Kansas ranked 19th in its dependence on property taxes, 22nd in sales taxes, 22nd in individual income taxes and the 16th in corporate income taxes.

Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, noted that the state probably climbed into the top 20 in sales taxes when a statewide 1-cent sales tax increase took effect July 1.

Steve Stotts, director of taxation for the Kansas Department of Revenue, said one item that sets Kansas apart from most states is its sales tax on groceries.

Most states exempt groceries entirely, he said, while a handful tax food at a rate lower than the general sales tax.

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