Topeka House Democrats on Monday continued to push for property tax relief but got a cool reception from Republicans who control the Legislature.
"The time for this is now because our revenues are climbing back," House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence told the House Taxation Committee.
House Bill 2609 would apply $90 million over two years to the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund, which was established in 1938, but which the Legislature had stopped funding in 2002 to help bridge state budget shortfalls.
State Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe, asked Davis why Democrats had not proposed re-funding the LAVTRF during the administrations of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, both Democrats. Kansas' current Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, has a tax plan that calls for reducing the income tax rates.
"Sometimes, I wonder if it's policy or politics," Schwab said to Davis.
Davis said that with the state's severe budget problems during the recession, it would have been irresponsible to try to cut property taxes.
Other Republicans on the committee asked if Davis if the property tax cut was a higher priority than increasing funds to public schools.
Davis said the state was building up a $400 million reserve and that Democrats have called for increased funding of schools to offset cuts made in recent years. "I'd like to see us put some more dollars in our schools, and reduce the property tax burden as well. I don't think they are mutually exclusive," he said.
Last week, the House approved a $90 million cut in property taxes, but Republicans then reversed the action, saying that they had been tricked into voting for the proposal. The property tax amendment also killed an underlying bill that Republicans had wanted. Both measures are now back before the tax committee.