Gov. Laura Kelly’s tax council has returned a slate of proposals for the Legislature, and its ideas are serious and worthy of consideration. While the debate won’t be easy, we trust that senators and representatives will come together for the good of our state’s fiscal health.
One in particular caught our eye — a program meant to offset local property tax costs.
As The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter reported: “The council agreed to seek legislative support for a return to implementation of the local ad valorem tax reduction fund, which would help local governments restrain the growth of property taxes. The state hasn’t funded the program since 2003.”
That’s shocking. If one complaint resonates in every corner of Kansas, and in towns big and small, it’s unhappiness with property tax costs. While those taxes fund important local services, they can be levied in confusing and surprising ways, when coupled with regular assessments. The ad valorem tax reduction fund would seem tailor made to address these complaints.
But it’s also sad to see that for the better part of two decades, that the Legislature has decided to waive the program. Sure, it’s on the books. Sure, it would make property owners’ lives easier. Legislators still decided to use the funds to cover other expenses.
As the tax council has found, there are many ways to potentially raise revenue going forward. Carpenter highlighted two other proposals: “A $32 million tax on internet sales by out-of-state businesses and the imposition of a $30 million sales tax on digital products ranging from books to cloud-based applications, magazines, video games and other items.” In both cases, the state wound be treating online purchases like those from brick-and-mortar stores.
But advocating for increased revenue can be challenging for lawmakers. There is a fear to be seen raising taxes, even if the needs are real and great. That leads to diversion of funds and forgetting the legislative intent of past bills.
Taxes will never be popular. But they are the lifeblood of our public services. Our roads, schools, health care and the rest depend on public dollars. And if we’re going to be paying them, it makes sense to have the most considered and fair system possible.
The council’s work has been important. It will continue, but we urge legislators in this upcoming session to consider these recommendations. They seem worth the time.