Archive for Tuesday, December 4, 2012

City commissioners express concerns about state sales tax on groceries, concealed carry changes

December 4, 2012


State legislators ought to be warned about both food and guns, Lawrence city commissioners determined at their weekly meeting.

Commissioners on Tuesday night crafted a draft version of the city’s legislative priorities statement, including language that urged the state to tread carefully in making changes to the state sales tax on food purchases, and objecting to potential legislation that would allowed concealed carry permit holders to bring a weapon into city buildings.

The food issue actually was the hotter of the two. Commissioners heard from three members of the public — including from state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence — urging the city to soften its stance on an idea related to eliminating the sales tax on groceries.

The city’s first draft version of the legislative priorities statement said the city “strongly opposes” efforts to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. Staff members estimated it could cost the city about $2 million a year in lost sales tax revenues.

But commissioners were told by several audience members that the sales tax on groceries was the single most detrimental tax against the poor.

“It is obvious the governor probably sees me as a drag on the economy,” said Lawrence resident Melinda Henderson, who told commissioners she earns about $9,000 a year in wages. “But I don’t think it is my fault that there aren’t enough good jobs in Lawrence ...

“I don’t really care what the governor thinks, but I do want to feel welcome in the community I live in, and this particular direction to the legislative delegation does not make me feel welcome.”

Commissioners ultimately agreed to change the wording to indicate that the city was opposed to any change in the sales tax on groceries unless the Legislature provides a “guaranteed source of replacement revenue.” Staff members also were directed to add language urging the state to reinstate a program to rebate sales taxes on groceries to residents below certain income levels.

“We all know people are going through a tough time trying to make ends meet,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “This could mean a lot to a lot of people during these economic times.”

Francisco after the meeting said she didn’t think it was likely that any legislation to remove the sales tax on groceries would be successful this year because of the state’s already bleak revenue outlook.

But the issue of changes to the state’s concealed carry law may be a different matter. Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who will take a seat in the state Senate when the new session begins, has said he’ll introduce legislation that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their weapons into city halls, university classrooms and other such structures if those buildings don’t have devices such as metal detectors or other security measures.

Francisco said the more conservative makeup of the Kansas Senate makes it more likely the bill can win approval in both houses this session.

Lawrence Mayor Bob Schumm said he wants a specific statement in the city’s legislative priorities statement opposing any effort to allow concealed weapons into City Hall and other city buildings.

“I’m very concerned about concealed carry in this room,” Schumm said. “It seems pretty explicit to me that it is going to be a debated bill, and I want to be equally explicit that I don’t like the idea.”

Commissioners did not take a formal vote on the legislative priorities statement, but none of the commissioners objected to Schumm’s statements.

Commissioners also directed staff members to add language urging the Legislature and the governor to create the necessary state plan and staff positions to again make the state eligible for National Endowment for the Arts funding.

Staff members will work on crafting specific language for the city’s legislative priorities statement and will bring it back for final approval before the legislative session begins in January.

In other news, commissioners:

• Gave preliminary approval to a plan to add a center turn lane and two bike lanes to the stretch of Ninth Street between Tennessee and Kentucky streets.

The project originally had drawn opposition from local attorney Todd Thompson because the project would eliminate seven on-street, public parking spaces in front of his law office building.

But commissioners on Tuesday said they favored an option that would widen a portion of the street about eight feet to the south, which would allow for three public parking spaces to remain near Thompson’s building.

The widening would cost the city an extra $16,550, but commissioners on a 4-1 vote said they would approve the extra spending if Thompson would donated the needed easement for the road. Thompson said he wanted to see the exact location of how close the project would be to his building, but he said he was open to donating the property.

The project allows for both an eastbound and westbound bike lane to be located on the one block stretch of street. The eastbound lane currently won’t connect to another bike lane, but commissioners heard from several members of the local cyclist community who said it was important to build the bike lane now while the city had the opportunity.

Commissioner Mike Dever voted against the plan, opting instead for a design that eliminated one of the two eastbound lanes of traffic for vehicles.

• Approved a $270,000 emergency purchase of a biosolids conveyor belt for the city’s sewer treatment plant. The conveyor needs to move about three tons of biosolids, a byproduct of the sewage treatment process, per day but recently has been malfunctioning. City crews are now having to make repairs on a daily basis to keep the belt operational. A new system is expected to be in place in about nine weeks.


David Holroyd 5 years, 5 months ago

Screw up the streets, Lawrence is good at that? The commissioners should work at lowering the mill levy for the entire tax base.

Old_Oread_Phart 5 years, 5 months ago

Let's all allow Wilbur to run the City. He has done such a good job of running his Oread neighborhood, and he is always so full of cheer and happiness.

absolutelyridiculous 5 years, 5 months ago

How about we forget about bike lanes, roundabouts and other special projects so we can afford to give the poor a break on their ever rising food bill? We have the T to help get them around too. Francisco wants the legislature to guarantee replacement funding but what does she suggest to tighten our own belts in City Hall so we can give the poorer residents of our city a break. Aren't we all about taking care of the less fortunate among us? The double-speak still amazes me still to this day.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

You didn't "think." You just knee-jerked with your disdain for anyone not in your tax bracket.

John Kyle 5 years, 5 months ago

You apparently thought wrong. I have a hunch most of your opinions on poverty are just as mistaken. A little education and self-reflection is all you need.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

A few years ago in California, when there was a proposal to raise taxes on cigarettes, community leaders in poor communities decried that as being nothing but a regressive tax on the poor because the poor smoke cigarettes in greater proportions than do the wealthy. As much as Bozo and queequeg wish it was not so, there is a certain element of truth in Larry's statement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

It was a sneering and classist overgeneralization, and as such, has no element of truth.

The fact is that any form of sales tax on consumables is regressive, whether it's cigarettes or baby food.

Sin taxes should be spent only to mitigate the cost to society of using these substances. For example, if we ever grow up as a country, sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol could be used to help fund a medicare-for-all healthcare system rather than funding tax breaks to the Koch Bros.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

It may have been sneering and classist and it may have been an overgeneralization, but it had just enough truth in it to make people like you uncomfortable. Hence your emotional denunciation, rather than a fact based denunciation.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Translation-- "I don't like poor people either, so I'll take any opportunity to say they deserve whatever fate befalls them. God likes it that way."

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

If you don't have facts on your side, criticize the messenger.

rtwngr 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, Bozo, don't you remember all of the huge fines the tobacco companies paid as a result of the Clinton administration hauling them into court. The fines were passed on to the tobacco users, the money never found its way into the healthcare funding it was originally purported to be the impetus for the lawsuits. No, the libs got a hold of the money and spent it! The regressive taxes still exist on tobacco and you are still railing about, "use the money for healthcare."

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

We must understand that Rt Wing Libertarian Neocon Fundamentalist Tea Party for Economic Terrorism party members such as Sam Brownback are all about making themselves appear like do gooders when they begin removing a sales tax. In reality they are responsible for increased local taxes.

However these folks from the Rt Wing Libertarian Neocon Fundamentalist Tea Party for Economic Terrorism party such as Sam Brownback always fail to provide a clue as how they will make up the lost revenue leaving a community such as Lawrence in a pickle.

How important is the new Field House that we don't need? A tax increase into the next century.

Ultimately it comes around to increasing the tax on water,sewer and trash service or increasing the mil levy or increasing taxes on any number of city services.

Which brings about why Lawrence taxpayers should demand the RIGHT TO VOTE on the field house,$90 million sewage treatment plant and 12 million $$$$$$ handouts to developers.

Where is the money? When is the last time city commissioners reduced our cost of living? Never is the last 30 years. It's always about leaving some kind of legacy behind. So they leave behind a ton of new tax dollar increasing projects and tax incentive corporate welfare.

Why not leave behind how many ways our cost of living was reduced as a legacy?

Why not leave behind the Taxpayers Right To Vote on all all projects and nonsense tax incentives? This should make any politician proud.

Can't blame it all on Sam Brownback the king of deception.

rtwngr 5 years, 5 months ago

Nothing irrational or inflammatory in this blog. Good job Merrill. You have reached a new low.

skinny 5 years, 5 months ago

Leave the grocery tax and drop the mill levey!

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

“I’m very concerned about concealed carry in this room,” Schumm said. “It seems pretty explicit to me that it is going to be a debated bill, and I want to be equally explicit that I don’t like the idea.”


Gee Bob. I wonder why.

FlintHawk 5 years, 5 months ago

Everyone needs to take a deep breath, then think. Think about your grocery bills. Over half my usual "grocery" bill is non-food items, which would still be taxed. I don't know if that's true of your grocery bills. I don't know if that's typical. But I will guess that "the poor" have a higher proportion of food vs. non-food items, And I wonder if the City Commissioners who're worried about revenue are looking at what's spent on "groceries" or what's spent on "food."

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 5 years, 5 months ago

Bob, can I carry my gun in Buffalo Bob's? If I can't I won't eat there any more.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 5 months ago

Why not take the tax off fresh produce, veggies, and meats. And tax anything that is unhealthy.

Lawrence_Pilot 5 years, 5 months ago

Because that would be way, way too progressive for the most conservative state in the country.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 5 months ago

Pennsylvania has done that for years. They also don't tax clothing. However property taxes are higher, and a larger percentage of school funding comes from local taxpayers in the form of property taxes rather than the state. Consequently suburban schools do better than those in urban or rural areas (I should know. They formed the early years of my schooling). There has to be balance with taxes. If one tax is low, another has to be high. Otherwise a government has no money. Simply cutting won't solve our problems.

Lawrence_Pilot 5 years, 5 months ago

Most states got rid of tax on foodstuffs years ago, but not here in JesusLand, where everyone hates the government right up until the moment they get their handout for their pet project.

patkindle 5 years, 5 months ago

lawrence is such a progressive town, i never could figure out how it attracted all the deadbeats, loafers and welfare rats

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

It may not be the function of the state to determine what is healthy and what is not, but it certainly is within their jurisdiction to determine what will cost the state money and seek to recover that money.

As an example, we might say that driving cars that get good gas mileage is a good thing. But you might argue that it's not the state's function to determine what type of car an individual drives. But what a state can do is tax cars according to their weight. Heavier cars cause more damage to roads, requiring more repairs. That would in turn encourage people to buy lighter cars. That lighter cars get better gas mileage would be a side benefit. So the state got from point A to point B, just in a sort of round about way.

So, if the state determines that potato chips will cost the state more in health care costs, more than say apples, then they could tax the chips at a higher rate. That the apples are healthier than the chips is just a side benefit.

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