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Brookens outlines property tax relief

Rep., 70th District

The House passed out a host of bills this past week and sent them to the Senate for consideration. Likewise, the Senate sent their bills over to us so House committees can hold hearings and consider their body of work.

Most of the bills with real meat and potatoes have yet to be tackled by either house. Income tax cuts, the budget, KPERS, and the school funding formula have yet to be brought to the floor of the House or Senate.

The House has passed out its own re-districting map (see my previous columns), and the Senate has pumped out a proposed new congressional district map, both made necessary by the 2010 census and the constitutional mandate of one person, one vote. The Senate has yet to adopt its own re-districting map.

The House passed HB 2212 last week which is worthy of note, not only for what it does, but how it happened. Hang on to your hat: In its original form, the bill would require all local governments with taxing authority to adjust their mill levies each year so the tax revenue from the levy stays even with the previous year’s revenue, even when property valuations appraise upward.

Currently the mill levy stays the same unless adjusted, and the budget goes up and down based on what that levy would garner and what the governing body votes for. This bill would prevent local governments from automatically increasing spending each year to match what the old mill levy would bring in for the new year; the governing body would be required to vote to increase the mill levy, even to back to its currently-established level, if it wants to raise spending.

This was presented as a bill giving more transparency. In Marion and Chase Counties, this process is pretty transparent already; our governing bodies talk openly about tax and budget, and our newspapers regularly report those discussions on the front page for all to see. Perhaps other locales aren’t so forthright, but I thought the original bill as rather distrusting of our local elected officials.

Now back to the bill: On Thursday during debate on the House floor, the bill was amended to provide $90 million in property tax relief to cities and counties, paid over two years. However, confusion regarding the amendment led some members to think they were actually voting to add the property tax relief onto the existing bill, when in reality the amendment struck the bill’s original language and substituted it with the tax relief.

I’ve now heard that someone intends to put the original wording of HB 2212 into some other bill and have the House take it up again. I’ve also heard someone may try to kill the amended bill that we passed, but at least for now, HB 2212 giving property tax relief is on its way to the Senate.

Regardless of the confusion, this is an important first step in lowering our tax burden. It’s no secret I advocate for property tax relief, and I was glad for the amendment, since the bill now provides Local Ad Valorem Tax Relief (LAVTR, aka revenue sharing) to our cities and counties, which, although it’s been the law, it hasn’t been funded since 2003.

Since 1997, Kansas’ property tax revenue has increased from about $1.97 billion to over $3.8 billion. This increase is huge and is triple the rate of inflation. Part of that increase is additional local government spending; but part of the tax increase must be attributed to the legislature’s failure to continue revenue sharing (LAVTR), repealing property taxes on personal property (but that really did boost business in Kansas in a huge way), and the legislature’s failure to fund the “slider,” promised as a replacement of the lost personal property tax revenue.

Keep in mind, though, even HB2212 has no teeth until funded; it can again be ignored as it has been since 2003. I remain hopeful!

You may email me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at either 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861 or Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call me at (620) 382-2133 or (785) 296-7636. If you want the entire link for a source, just let me know.

Last modified March 1, 2012

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