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The fight over sales tax has consumed Kansas politics for three years


It's amazing how much of the political fighting in Kansas is wrapped up in one penny that most Kansans pay every day without a fuss. Of course, the penny adds up to approximately $300 million a year, and is key to state budget and tax policy.

The one-cent increase in the state sales tax approved in 2010 is scheduled to decrease July 1.

The one-cent increase in the state sales tax approved in 2010 is scheduled to decrease July 1. by Scott Rothschild

During the Great Recession, Kansas saw historic drops in tax revenue that resulted in cuts to higher education, Medicaid and public schools.

In 2010, to avoid even deeper cuts, a slim majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Legislature approved a temporary one-cent sales tax increase to shore up the state budget.

Under the plan, the state sales tax went from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar, and on July 1, 2013, the sales tax rate would then decrease to 5.7 cents per dollar with 0.4 cents going to transportation.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce had vehemently opposed the tax increase, and after the Legislature approved it the chamber worked hard during the campaign season to defeat those who voted for it.

When the smoke cleared after the November 2010 elections, conservative Republican Sam Brownback was elected governor by a large margin and the moderate coalition in the House was crushed.

As the 2011 legislative session started, many conservative Republicans said they wanted to repeal the increased sales tax. But Brownback didn't; the state budget was still struggling and he needed the revenue.

And the Kansas Chamber of Commerce adopted a new strategy, arguing against repeal by saying the revenue from the increase should be used to offset the loss of revenue from what it wanted: elimination of the state corporate income tax.

In 2012, Brownback called for making the increased sales tax permanent to help pay for income tax cuts. He later signed into law cuts in income tax rates, elimination of income taxes for the owners of nearly 200,000 businesses, and removal of tax credits for the poor. But nothing was done on the sales tax issue.

In 2013, the Legislature is still arguing about the temporary sales tax increase, which is scheduled to decrease in a little over two months.

Again, Brownback wants to make the 6.3 percent rate permanent, saying it is necessary to balance the budget and avoid cuts to higher education. Democrats want to protect funding for education, but say Brownback really wants to keep the sales tax higher to cover deficits created by his income tax cuts and to help pay for more income tax cuts in the future to benefit the wealthy. Meanwhile, conservatives in the House also said they want the sales tax to decrease and that the budget can be cut more. Conservatives in the Senate have gone along with Brownback's plan on the sales tax issue, saying it is key to start drawing down the income tax. In fact, many of those Senate conservatives who voted against the temporary sales increase, recently voted to make it permanent.

So, the penny has come full circle. It started as a temporary Band-Aid approved by a moderate coalition to avoid drastic budget cuts.

Now, it is being pushed by a conservative governor, who wants to make it permanent to be used for either propping up the budget that was undercut by large income tax cuts, or to pay for future income tax cuts, or both.

When the Legislature returns, the fight over one penny will be front and center again.


Bob Forer 5 years ago

The Democrats are spot on. The claim that eliminating corporate tax and lowering the tax on the wealthy will boost the economy and generate increased tax revenue from other sources is a fantasy. What Brownback is doing is giving money to the well-to-do and taking it away from the rest of us. It hurts the poor the most, who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on items that are subject to sales tax, such as food. I would have less of a problem if food were exempt from sales tax.

Mike_Marvin 5 years ago

All the while state employees have not had a raise since 2005. At two of our state hospitals we cannot hire enough people to work for what the state wants to pay. So what happens is massive amounts of overtime to care for patients.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years ago

What Overtime? We have to take a day off before and a day off after a weekend we are scheduled to work for a rotating pool to staff weekends so we DON'T get overtime pay.. No overtime here! University of Kansas new policy on overtime. None except under EXTREME conditions.

Dave Trabert 5 years ago

Mike_Marvin is correct in saying that there are large amounts of overtime pay. In fact, an Activity Therapist at Larned State Hospital collected over $50,000 in overtime last year. Total overtime statewide was up 28% to $13.2 million. That doesn't include any overtime pay for universities; the Dept. of Administration says they don't have access to that information.

See details at http://www.kansasopengov.org/StateGovt/PayListings/tabid/792/Default.aspx

chootspa 5 years ago

Then maybe the state needs to start giving out raises and paying competitive wages.

Dave Trabert 5 years ago

It is not necessary to increase the sales tax in order to balance the budget. A detailed plan we presented to legislators is at http://www.kansaspolicy.org/researchcenters/budgetandspending/budgetandspendingstudies/104136.aspx

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

My computer balked at that, saying it was dangerous. Your "presentation" needs to be much more safe for the masses.

Dave Trabert 5 years ago

that page has had a lot of views...first I've heard of any issue. Happy to send you the PDF if you want...send me a note at dave.trabert@kansaspolicy.org

chootspa 5 years ago

Don't bother. He just trots out the biased Koch-funded Tax Foundation/ALEC "Rich States, Poor States"argument, where they claim that states with higher tax burdens do worse than states with lower tax burdens. It's sloppy and intellectually dishonest, but they'll cite it over and over again. See counter argument here: http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/snakeoiltothestates.pdf

Then he compares states' general fund expenditure on schools, while leaving out that most states spend less from their general fund because they spend more from local taxes. Then he lists a bunch of ways to rob Peter to pay Paul and pretends like the magic of less spending won't get us crappier services all around.

My favorite part of the whole thing is the tone. It's written in an eighth grade reading level and sounds slightly sneering and pejorative. But then again, he is sending it to the current crop of Brownbackistan's finest.

chootspa 5 years ago

No, it's not. They could make your Koch donors start paying their fair share of income taxes again and they'd no longer have a financial crisis.

somebodynew 5 years ago

JJe007 - Maybe your computer is scared of propaganda ??

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years ago

Dave does seem to be a "Propaganda Mary", spreading his masters' virus hither and yon.

Jen43 5 years ago

DoubtingThomas is correct. KU simply lays workers off either before or after the overtime worked, so they don't have to pay OT. If an outside source is paying the OT, workers are encouraged to take comp time so the department can keep the money and use it how they see fit. I know of cases where people are sent home then called back a couple of hours later just to keep the total time at 40 hours or less. If you end the week under 40 hours you have to use vacation time just to get your normal pay or go without pay for the short hour(s).

chootspa 5 years ago

Mike's talking about state hospitals, not KU. So they're both probably correct. In the case of a hospital you can't just not pay the overtime and go without staff.

Michael LoBurgio 5 years ago

The premiere episode of Kansas Believe It Or Not News. You can't make this sh*t up.

Worth a watch, hopefully this helps people tune in to what is really going on in the Kansas Legislature. Take a moment to watch this video then share it on your own social networks!

Michael LoBurgio 5 years ago

Dave didn't work then won't work now!

Ex-Reagan Budget Director: George W. Bush's Policies Bankrupt The Country

A former adviser of Ronald Reagan has some choice words for George W. Bush.

David Stockman, Reagan’s budget director from 1981 to 1985, slammed Bush and his former boss in an op-ed in The New York Times Sunday. Stockman argued in the piece that Reagan’s view on the deficit “created a template for the Republicans’ utter abandonment of the balanced-budget policies of Calvin Coolidge.”

“(Reagan’s deficit policies) allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars, a giant expansion of Medicare and a tax-cutting spree for the wealthy that turned K Street lobbyists into the de facto office of national tax policy,” Stockman wrote.


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