In response to a request for tax policy records, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said even if it has the records, it doesn’t have to release them.
On Oct. 11, the Lawrence Journal-World made a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for access to or copies of minutes, agendas and policy papers of a group that has been working in private to prepare a tax policy recommendation for Brownback.
Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan is heading the effort to give recommendations to Brownback. When given the newspaper’s request, the Revenue Department said it would need some time to respond to the “extensive nature of your request,” but promised to respond by Nov. 30.
A Nov. 29 letter from Jeannine Koranda, public information officer with the Revenue Department, said no records would be forthcoming.
“To the extent that we have any records called for by your request, they are exempt from disclosure pursuant to K.S.A. 45-221(a)(2), (20),” the letter stated.
That part of the Kansas Open Records law provides an exemption to the law that includes, “Notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed, except that this exemption shall not apply when such records are publicly cited or identified in an open meeting or in an agenda of an open meeting.”
Brownback’s stated intention to overhaul the state tax code has generated a lot of interest and speculation. In past statements, Brownback has said he wants to reduce or eliminate the state income tax as a way to grow the economy. This idea has prompted concerns from some about how the state would fund education, social services and public safety.
Jordan has talked about a task force working on the tax proposal, but has provided few details. Earlier this year, it appeared the plan would be unveiled before the end of the year.
But now the governor’s office has said Brownback’s proposal probably won’t be outlined until his State of the State address to the Legislature, which is scheduled for Jan. 11.
Koranda has said senior Revenue Department staff members Richard Cram, head of policy and research, and Steve Stotts, director of taxation, have been consulted on the proposal. She said Republican leaders of the House and Senate tax committees had been consulted.
But she has declined to name any businesspeople who are working with the task force.
The only person outside state government who has been named to the task force working on a recommendation for Brownback is Arthur Laffer, who had served as a key economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Laffer espouses cutting taxes for corporations and top-income earners as a way to grow the economy through increased jobs.
Laffer, who is being paid $75,000 as a consultant on the Kansas tax proposal, helped write the latest edition of “Rich States, Poor States” for the American Legislative Exchange Council. Brownback wrote the forward to the ALEC report.