Kobach files for governor vowing property tax relief; Selzer promises to focus on agriculture

Two major Republican candidates for governor filed their official paperwork Tuesday to place their names on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, with one vowing to work for property tax relief and another saying he wants to revive the state’s agriculture industry.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Tuesday that if he is elected governor, he would work to hold down property tax increases, in part by capping how much county appraisers can raise someone’s property value from one year to the next.

Meanwhile, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said improving the state’s agricultural economy is key to growing the state’s overall economy.

Kobach, who has frequently criticized Kansas lawmakers over recent sales tax and income tax increases, said the annual process of reappraising property values effectively amounts to another kind of tax increase.

“The reappraisals that we all see are just like a quiet flood that just keeps increasing and increasing,” he said. “There’s no hubbub. There’s no big debate. There’s no acute point of decision. It just keeps going up, and it’s drowning people in taxes.”

He said if he is elected governor, he would push for a number of changes in the state’s property tax law, including a law to cap increases in the appraised value of any given parcel to no more than 2 percent from one year to the next.

Kobach said he has spoken with people who have complained about being hit with double-digit increases in their property values, and that his proposal would prevent property owners from being hit “with these massive increases all coming in at once.”

His proposal, however, immediately raised concerns about whether that would result in distortions in values between newer homes and older homes, or between homes that have recently sold and those that have been in the same hands for several years.

Douglas County Appraiser Steven Miles said that when a new home sells, the sale price is one of the main factors in setting the home’s value for tax purposes. That means new homes and homes that have just sold recently are appraised for tax purposes at something very close to their actual sale price.

But if the rate at which valuations grow over time as homes appreciate in value is artificially capped, he said, that would lead to distortions in real estate appraisals and, ultimately, in how much tax people owe on similarly-valued property.

“Typically we’re seeing some appreciation in the market,” Miles said. “If it was hypothetically more than 2 percent a year, and we were to value (other property) at fair market value, that would create inequity in valuations.”

Kobach, however, challenged the accuracy of county appraisals, saying properties are often valued by counties at far more than their actual fair market value.

“Sometimes the appraisals go up, and the appraisals are said to be a reflection of market values,” Kobach said. “But then when you talk to the Realtors, the Realtors say no, actually the prices haven’t gone up that much.”

A recent analysis by the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Property Valuation Division, however, indicated that overall, property appraisals for tax purposes tend to be very close to actual market values.

The agency measures that every year by looking at the ratio between appraised values and actual sale values. In 2015, the most recent year available, that analysis showed that statewide, residential properties were appraised for tax purposes at 96.2 percent of their actual sale price, and commercial properties were appraised at 90.2 percent — both indicating that, on average, county appraisals were actually below fair market value.

Selzer campaign

Selzer and his running mate, Goodland businesswoman Jen Sanderson, also formally filed Tuesday, with Selzer calling for a renewed focus on the Kansas agricultural economy.

“Ag has to be a priority,” he said in an interview after he filed. “Ag is more than 50 percent of our economy. Ag has to grow if Kansas is going to grow.”

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, agriculture made up only 3.1 percent of total gross state product in Kansas in 2017. Selzer’s campaign, however, later produced figures from the Kansas Department of Agriculture suggesting that the direct and indirect effects of the agriculture, food and food processing sectors of the economy have a much larger economic impact.

The Kansas farm economy has been suffering in recent years, due in large part to low commodity prices. But Selzer said he believes there is more the state can do to bolster the farm economy besides waiting for prices to go back up.

“The governor can be a champion for new markets,” he said. “It’s happened in other states around us. A good example is Nebraska. They have a governor who is talking about ag every day. Every day, something positive going on in ag.”

The deadline for candidates to file for election is noon Friday, June 1.

Gov. Jeff Colyer announced that he and Lt. Gov. Terry Mann will file at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The only remaining major candidate in the race, former Republican Sen. Jim Barnett, has said he will file on Thursday.


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