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County could change districts

Rep., 70th District

The House passed its redistricting map, and the 70th District will retain all its former territory and will gain Hope, Solomon, Elmo, and surrounding townships in western and southern Dickinson County. I look forward to meeting and talking to the good folks of Dickinson County, in addition to those in Butler, Chase, and Marion counties. I hope to have community meetings throughout the new district this winter and spring.

In the column last week, I said I believed that none of the proposed congressional maps affected Butler, Chase, or Marion County. I can still say no map is expected to affect Dickinson, Chase, or Butler, but I have discovered there is a map floating around that proposes to move all of Marion County into the 4th Congressional District, which includes Wichita. I’m not so certain our voice would be as strong in the mostly-urban 4th District.

The Senate’s version of the map puts all of Marion County in the rural “Big 1st,” and I prefer that. No congressional map has been worked in the House, so we’ll wait and see.

The House Tax Committee has developed an income tax proposal that varies from Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal. It keeps some of the earned income credit, most of the deductions people traditionally take, and lowers the tax rates much more slowly. While the governor’s plan keeps the state sales tax at 6.3 percent, the House Tax Committee plan allows .6 percent to expire as planned. It will, however, capture part of the sales tax money designed to maintain our highways. This new plan is projected to be $40 million short.

Again, as with the governor’s plan, there are some features I’m comfortable with, and I am fine with reducing income taxes for all Kansans; but as with the governor’s plan, there is a 2 percent cap on revenue increases, with any excess income above 2 percent to be used to march the income tax down to zero. That’s still the piece I object to.

The “march to zero” still has two flaws, and I feel like a stuck record talking about the first: It grossly imbalances the three-legged stool and puts incredible pressure on property and sales taxes to shoulder the load of what our governments must do.

With the second flaw, I feel like the old country singer singing “Don’t Fence Me In.” It is not prudent to place an arbitrary cap on our economy. We cannot foresee next year’s economy. We cannot predict the rate of inflation (typically above 2 percent), so to avoid emptying prisons, cutting teachers in the classroom, moving grandma out of the nursing home when her money runs out, and generally meeting our real obligations, we need to at least fund inflation.

Additionally, there’s the likelihood that the federal government will stop sending money for some of its programs we have to comply with, and that may fall on our shoulders. This 2 percent thing is nothing more than a new version of the old Colorado TABOR (sorry, Tabor College, it’s not my acronym) that nearly bankrupted Colorado. It didn’t work there, and it won’t here.

As a conservative, I want to take it methodically — as we know the issues in front of us. With any increase in income tax revenue, I’d want to further lower taxes yet keep the stool balanced; I’d pay down current state debt; I want to meet our obligations on a host of other things. If we set an arbitrary limit, how can we use any additional revenue for any of these worthwhile goals? Aren’t they more appropriate than marching the income tax to zero?

You may e-mail me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net, 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.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2012

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