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Tax lid protects taxpayers E-mail
Opinion
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 08:25


A SECOND OPINION, The Lawrence Journal-World



State legislators are right to defend a recently implemented state law that imposes a lid on property tax increases despite continued opposition from cities and counties.

The law was passed in 2015 but only took effect this year. It ties property tax revenue increases to the rate of inflation. Setting a rate that generates more revenue than the rate of inflation requires voter approval.

While the law has flaws, it offers important protections to Kansas taxpayers.

But local government officials disagree. They told an interim legislative committee last week that the tax lid is too restrictive.

“We think (the tax lid) is an infringement on the very idea of representative democracy,” said Trey Cocking, deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities. “Our members were elected to make these decisions, and we obviously think these decisions are best made at the local level.”

Cocking said cities throughout Kansas face increased costs for things like employee health insurance, and the tax lid restricts them from keeping up with those costs. Melissa Wangemann, general counsel for the Kansas Association of Counties, said an exception to the law should be made for rising employee costs. A bill introduced in the House during the 2017 session would have provided that exception, but the bill died in committee.

“The lowest quote I have heard from my counties for health care was a 7 percent increase in 2018,” she said. “This year’s consumer price index — the measurement for the tax lid — was 1.4 percent.”

Lawmakers were largely unmoved by the testimony of the associations representing cities and counties.

Lawmakers rightly noted there are already a number of exceptions to the lid. And Republican state Rep. Ken Corbet, of Topeka, wisely pointed out that in regard to rising health care costs, most of the taxpayers who are being levied with property tax increases also face rising health care premiums.

Douglas County taxpayers understand all too well the impact property tax increases can have. This year, the combined property-tax increase coming from the county, city and Lawrence school district was a combined 6.66 mills. The new property tax lid, which does not apply to school districts, didn’t prevent homeowners from seeing their overall property tax bill increase by nearly 11 percent.

Of course, city and county governments are going to face unanticipated cost increases. All businesses and organizations do. But tax increases aren’t the solution.

The property tax lid promotes efficiencies by encouraging local government to look first at other alternatives — cutting spending, for example — before simply raising taxes. While the law should be tweaked to reduce the number of exception, overall the lid is working as it should on behalf of taxpayers.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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