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Legislator targets taxes, education in report to Patriots

Staff writer

Taxes and public schools were in the crosshairs Sunday when State Rep. Scott Hill reported at the county lake hall to 33 members of the fundamentalist conservative group Patriots for Liberty of Marion County.

Complaining that Kansas has the nation’s third highest number of public employees per resident, Hill warned that those who decide how to spend taxpayer money must develop courage to suggest cuts, even in programs that seem popular.

An Abilene Republican whose district includes northern and eastern segments of Marion County, Hill suggested that the state cut some of the 22 mills in property taxes it imposes.

Out of the 216 mills that a typical Marion property owner pays, the state actually receives only 1.5 mills. It mandates the levying of 20 additional mills, but that money goes to local school districts.

Hill and questioners expressed concern about how a 12.2% increase in assessed value of Marion County property might allow local governments to almost silently spend more.

“We really need to get tax relief passed this year,” Hill said. “Our economy is teetering right now. The farm economy has not been good. I think it is irresponsible to carry these huge surpluses that we’re carrying and not give tax relief.”

The state, the county, and most cities have adopted budgets that include surpluses, which officials adopting those budget say are reserves, prudently set aside for planned or unforeseen future expenses.

Hill vowed to vote against any state budget that increases spending more than inflation, which currently is running at 3.2%, not the 12.2% that appraisals have increased.

“I think state budgets should be flat,” he said, “because that’s headed in the right direction of bringing the size of government back down.”

Cuts are difficult, he conceded, because many programs are popular.

“Having the discipline to hold the line on each individual item is really hard, and not too many people have the courage to do that,” he said. “We keep trying to instill courage in the legislature.”

An audience member asked whether the county shouldn’t drop its mill rate, too.

County commissioner Kent Becker, a regular attendee at Patriots meetings, responded.

“Everybody wants nice things,” he said. “We haven’t made the hard decision we just can’t do that anymore.”

Hill wasn’t optimistic about getting as big tax cuts as he wants.

“We’re not going to be able to give you enough tax relief to make up for what inflation has done,” he said.

Citing presidents and patriots of the past, he lamented what he regards as a change in public thinking.

“There’s a lot of us in this country that have a sense that something’s not quite right,” he said. “Part of it is that our value system as a country has really changed. Part of that is due to education.”

An audience member interjected: “It’s like they’re trying to destroy our country.”

Hill offered an anecdote.

“I think we owe the Communists an apology,” he said. “We saw money come through the education budget for infant-care slots….

“We’re paying for babies to be in the school system. We are developing into a system that wants to take babies from Day One and have them through 18 years of age.”

“Indoctrinating them!” a woman in the audience interjected.

“Whatever you want to call it,” Hill responded. “Taking away responsibility. Is the school system taking away responsibility, or are parents giving up responsibility? It’s a little of both, maybe a lot of both.”

He expressed support for the state paying for private education by sending money that otherwise would go to public schools to private schools via vouchers that would follow students. But he told group members that he doubted vouchers would be adopted anytime soon in Kansas.

“The school system essentially says we know what’s best for your kids right now,” he said.

Public schools cost 2½ times as much per student as private schools, he said. But he stopped short of blaming local schools.

“The public school does a lot more things than the private school,” he said.

He cited, for example, underfunded mandates to provide such things as special education.

“We have a school nurse,” he said, “we have a school psychologist, we have a school counselor, we have a curriculum expert, we have a librarian, we have a principal, we might have a vice principal because there’s too much work for just the principal, then we have a superintendent, we have a vice superintendent, we have an athletic director, and it goes on and on and on.

“It isn’t the local school district saying we want to spend more tax dollars so we’re going to hire a whole bunch more people. It is the state government and the federal government saying you will have a school nurse on the premises, you will have a psychologist, a counselor, etc., etc.

“Are those all good things? They may be great things. But your local school really doesn’t have any control over it.”

Although noting one serious failure in which the Republican bloc in the legislature did not hold together to override a veto, Hill said leadership “has been good about not putting us in difficult situations.”

Last modified March 20, 2024

 

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