Proponents of tax increase urge legislative committee to approve Parkinson’s plan

? The state’s budget crisis will have significant impact on the very young and the very old, unless lawmakers approve an increase in the sales tax, according to testimony before the House Tax Committee on Thursday.

Megan Greene of Lawrence, whose daughter, Azucena Melchor, attends Cordley School, told committee members that the Lawrence school board is considering drastic budget cuts — firing teachers, increasing class sizes and closing schools.

“When schools are the institutional anchors for neighborhoods, their closure means loss of property values, loss of families in the neighborhoods, and a general decline,” she said.

And Carol Russell of Emporia said a recent 10 percent cut in Medicaid will drastically reduce services for her 93-year-old mother.

“Our parents and grandparents deserve better than this,” Russell said.

Russell said she and her husband, with help from the state program that provides home-based services to the elderly, were able to keep her mother out of more expensive nursing home care. But recent budget cuts could change that, she said.

Russell and Greene were among Kansans who testified to the tax panel, which is considering a bill proposed by Gov. Mark Parkinson that would provide a temporary 1 percent increase in the state sales tax.

Parkinson has said the increase is needed to help bridge a $400 million revenue shortfall. The governor has argued that the state should not cut beyond the five rounds of budget cuts that have been enacted. Those cuts have reduced a $6.4 billion state budget to $5.4 billion.

House Bill 2475 would increase the state sales tax from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar on July 1. The rate would then be reduced to 5.5 cents per dollar on July 1, 2013, with the extra 0.2 of a cent going toward a new transportation program.

The tax committee heard from supporters of a tax increase on Thursday and will hear from opponents next Tuesday.

Some groups have already weighed in against the proposal, including the Kansas Chamber and the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Mike Maddox, chair of the Kansas Chamber board, said, “Nothing will hinder the recovery and economic growth more than increasing the tax burden on our citizens.”

The Libertarian Party of Kansas also issued a news release opposing a tax increase, saying that more budget cuts were needed.

But people who testified on Thursday said more budget cuts would permanently damage essential services that have already been cut to the bone.

Already, more than 4,300 Kansans with developmental disabilities and 1,800 with physical disabilities are on waiting lists for home and community-based services.

Peter Roman, with Kansas Families for Education, said a tax increase was like protecting an investment.

“During the recent cold wave, I continued to heat my house because replacing frozen pipes would have cost much more,” Roman said. “The same applies to Kansas. Now, more than ever we have to make smart choices.”