Archive for Sunday, January 12, 2014

Local officials begging Legislature to do no harm

Inside the Kansas Statehouse looking up one can view the dome restoration.

Inside the Kansas Statehouse looking up one can view the dome restoration.

January 12, 2014


— Cities, counties, and school districts living downstream from the decisions of the Kansas Legislature have one major request as the 2014 session starts: Stop.

The tax cuts pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative conservatives are wreaking havoc with local budgets, officials across the state are saying.

At a pre-session meeting in Lawrence last week, Douglas County Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan summed up the county's six-page legislative statement in one plea — "Please do no more harm."

Backed by conservative majorities in the House and Senate, Brownback has slashed income tax rates, which has pushed more of the burden of funding services to local governments, officials say.

And Republican leaders are considering more tax cuts, more mandates on local governments and a bill that locals say would hinder both their ability and the ability of non-profit organizations to lobby legislators.

Lawrence Mayor Michael Dever said he wants the Legislature to act more like a partner and include city, county and local school district representatives in the decision-making process.

"We best know our community needs," Dever said.

Two legislators who helped usher through the income tax cuts say they understand the complaints of local officials, but said their beef isn't with the Legislature.

State Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, and chairman of the House tax committee, was a county commissioner for 12 years. "The local units of government, like the state and federal governments, have to become more efficient. We can't be all things to all people all the time," Carlson said.

State Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, and chairman of the Senate tax committee, acknowledged that sometimes the state sends unfunded mandates to local governments just like the federal government does to state government.

"It's a never-ending battle," he said. But, he said, for him the bottom line is controlling spending at all levels. "In order to give you a benefit, I have to take it from someone else," he said.

For instance, there are proposals before the Legislature that would impose spending or tax limitations on local governments. Many local government officials opposed last year's passage expanding the state's concealed-carry law, saying it would increase security costs in public buildings.

The impact of Brownback's tax changes will be on full display during the session as legislators grapple with the budget and the 2014 election campaign gains momentum.

Brownback has pushed for and signed into law lower income tax rates, eliminating income taxes for nearly 200,000 business owners, removing deductions designed to help low- and middle-income Kansans and, in the 2013 session, a sales tax increase to offset some of the lost tax revenue.

Brownback has said the tax changes will stimulate the economy and that Kansas is headed in the right direction. "We are very blessed and we're on the rise," he said.

His likely Democratic opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, disagrees.

Davis says the tax cuts shift the tax burden onto low- and middle-income Kansans, while reducing revenue needed for schools and education.

But more tax cuts may be on the horizon. Bankers and realtors want to eliminate the mortgage registration tax that provides $47 million per year to counties, and the already existing income tax law sets up further tax cuts should revenues grow.

Adding volatility to Kansas' budget situation is the school finance lawsuit pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.

In 2005-6, the Kansas Supreme Court told the Legislature it was failing to fund schools adequately, fairly, and constitutionally.

After much controversy, the Legislature approved a three-year plan to increase funding. Then the Great Recession hit, and legislators started cutting the budget.

Once the recession ended, however, instead of restoring the cuts to the classroom, Brownback cut taxes drastically.

A lower court panel told the state it can't renege on its constitutional obligation to school funding. Its ruling could result in a nearly $500 million per year increase in school funding. That decision is before the state Supreme Court, and as Donovan recently said, "That is the 800 pound, no the 8-ton gorilla in the room."


Issues in the 2014 legislative session

Note: These issues are listed in no particular order. Hover over the image for more information about the issue.


Brock Masters 3 years, 11 months ago

Local governments should own the tax-service decision. Residents of a county or city can decide what services they want and are willing to pay for.

With few exceptions city and county services shouldn't be subsidized by residents of other cities or counties.

Cille King 3 years, 11 months ago

Brock, Do you know which counties in Kansas pays more to the state than they get returned and which counties gets more than they paid to the state.?

Mike Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

I want a fiefdom like that which existed under the Articles of Confederation where each colony fought the other over accepting each other's currency and a number of other pointless issues that were resolved with the US Constitution and a centralized federal government in the late 1780's. I want to advocate for a mythical situation that will never exist in current times. What you're advocating for sounds a lot like the states rights southern segregation culture I witnessed the end of as a child in the early 1970's. State's Rights entities who advocated for much of what you're speaking of segregated state Indian tribes like the Waccamauw Siouan and Lumbee peoples in North Carolina and Mowa Choctaw peoples in Alabama which I'm a part of out of local school districts and didn't allow them to attend school past sixth grade unless they went to school with African Americans or somehow supported their own schools in the woods until these local entities tried to seize the lands and run the schools off. Calcedeaver School in the Mowa Choctaw area north of Mobile, Alabama is such a school that survived those dark times at the mercy of local and county officials in Mobile and Washington County where it began as a segregated Indian school because those local officials decided Indians didn't need to be educated.

Brock Masters 3 years, 11 months ago

Right Mike - everything you disagree with is racist and rooted in your bigoted roots.

Can't someone have a different vision without you labeling them racist or bringing in past mistreatment of Indians?

I am advocating for cities and counties along with their residents to decide what services they want and be committed to paying for them. Nothing racist about local control and responsibility. Education is a statewide responsibility, but other services may fall into the local realm.

Respond and tell me why my position is wrong but don't expect me to engage if you resort to ad hominem attacks.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 11 months ago

When the voters of Kansas voted in the Republican tea-bag slate of governer, secretary-of-state and legislators, they kenw full-well that these people would be in full support of big business, rich billionaires, and other contributors such as the Koch Regime.

The governer soaks his agenda in religious fantasy and a good number of Kansans residents are firm believers in this stuff, so it is no secret as to what is terribly wrong in the government of Bleeding Kansas.

Mike Ford 3 years, 11 months ago

fact.....under local control the Mowa Choctaw people whom I descend from were discriminated by local officials and local control advocates in Mobile and Washington County, Alabama. Fact not attack. It took the Federal Government to end this discrimination. I went to my tribe's website and read where the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 ended such discrimination and segregation in schooling. Look up Calcedeaver Elementary School to learn of such history. Racist history from real facts are not an ad hominem attack. You simply don't want to deal with the whole picture of history. I experienced and saw this as a young child. You're not taking any high road whatsoever by trying to part and parcel parts of history that tip your apple cart so to speak. Truth is not an attack unless there is denial on one's part. I'm sorry my telling the truth affects your point of view. If you do not realize that the past dictates the future especially when people repeat it what does that say? I am Indian. I saw states rights and local control affect tribal education. This is relevant to this discussion. Especially when there are local school districts in South Dakota and Montana advocating for the same point of view you take while the US Justice Department investigates them for acting like they have no one to answer to under local control.

William Enick 3 years, 11 months ago

"The local units of Government....need to be more efficient. We can't be all things to all people all the time." State Rep. R-Carlson." That's a lie, of course( The part about efficiency...). We the people, by Law, are responsible for collectively, decreasing the debt (in the that was created by at least two unfunded wars and a financial collapse globally (criminal in nature) in 2008 the likes of which the world has never seen. The right is doing it with a policy of budget austerity and reducing the cost of labor-wages. " We the people" are improving the economy by reducing the purchasing power of the average household. I'm being nice. We are headed toward a collective impoverishment. The reality presently: The legitimacy of Capitalism as a way of organizing society has been undermined. It's promises of prosperity, social mobility, and democracy have lost credibility. "Free market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything, yet they dominate the political seen now more than ever." Writes Paul Krugman. The price for this monumental financial perversion is the end of social advances previously wrested from it. Unless...

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