Topeka Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday went on the offensive, urging health and social service advocates to enlist people to lobby the Legislature for a tax increase.
“Legislators need to hear from a lot more people than they are hearing from today,” Parkinson said at a meeting of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund.
In the past year, Parkinson and the Legislature have cut nearly $1 billion from a $6.4 billion state budget because of a steep decline in tax revenue. Still, the state faces a $400 million revenue shortfall.
Further cuts, Parkinson said, would do serious damage to education, social services and public safety. He told the Children’s Cabinet that funding of programs aimed at helping children were at risk if legislators don’t increase taxes.
A recent 10 percent cut in Medicaid spending has brought howls of complaints from various groups.
Dozens of certified nurse’s aides traveled to the Capitol to talk to lawmakers.
Josh Lott, a CNA at Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community in Lawrence, was one of them.
“This cut affects everything that is important to quality of care for our residents,” he said.
Parkinson has proposed increasing the state sales tax by one cent for three years. He also wants to increase the cigarette tax by 55 cents per pack.
The sales tax proposal, however, was flogged by business interests before the House Tax Committee.
Kent Eckels, a lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber, said that businesses in surrounding states were “salivating” at the thought of an increased sales tax in Kansas.
Art Hall, director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University, said an increase in the state sales tax could mean 26,000 fewer jobs over five years and have a $2 billion negative impact. He said that was because the tax increase takes more money out of family budgets and Kansans would buy fewer things.
Derrick Sontag, head of the Kansas chapter of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity, said state government is spending too much. When asked where the budget should be cut, Sontag said public school funding should be cut further.
But Parkinson said the problem is that Kansas went on a tax-cutting binge over the past 15 years, with most of those cuts going to businesses.
He said it was time to recover some of that revenue, and he declared as a “myth” that voters would punish legislators who vote to increase taxes. “It’s not the end of the world,” Parkinson said of a tax vote.
Meanwhile, two Republican legislators from Johnson County introduced legislation to increase the state liquor tax and dedicate the additional revenue to social services.
“In this economy, the need for mental health (services) is even more,” state Rep. Kay Wolf, R-Prairie Village, said.
Wolf and state Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, have proposed doubling the liquor gallonage tax, which would produce $22 million. Under the proposal, the increased revenue would go toward mental health centers and reducing a waiting list for those receiving home and community-based assistance.
The current tax is 18 cents per gallon on beer, 30 cents per gallon on wine and $2.50 per gallon on alcohol. It is levied upon the person who first manufactures, sells, purchases or receives the liquor. It has already been paid by the time the product is for sale in a liquor, grocery or convenience store.