Kansas House leadership plans to balance budget without tax increases

A legislative panel at yesterday’s AFP Kansas Defending the American Dream Summit 2010 featured members of the Kansas House of Representatives Leadership presenting the case that the budget can be balanced without increasing taxes on Kansans.

Speaking first, Representative Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican who is chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislature is trying to balance the Kansas state budget without a tax increase.

Yoder spoke of the momentum behind increasing government spending, noting that it used to be that if you didn’t get a five percent increase, it was called a budget cut. Arguments were over whether an agency would receive a seven, eight, or nine percent increase in funding. “There are some who always want to spend more, and there are some for who it’s never enough.”

Yoder said that despite what Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson wants for his legacy, we must pass a budget without raising taxes.

Yoder said that when times get tough, government has to cut back spending just like businesses and families have had to do. Despite the talk of “bone-cutting,” he said that spending continues.

He said that in the last year, Kansas lost about 50,000 private sector jobs. But at the same time, public sector jobs grew. “That doesn’t sound like cutting to the bone to me,” he told the audience. There is more waste to be eliminated and greater efficiencies to be found.

Yoder said that SB 572 is the budget bill that passed out of the House Appropriations committee last week. He said it adds funding for public safety and the physically and mentally disabled. It does not devastate services, he added.

Speaking next, Olathe Republican Arlen Siegfreid, who is Speaker Pro Tem of the House, told the audience that Kansas has a “fundamentally flawed” budget system. He noted that it has been said from the beginning that the budget can’t be balance without raising taxes can’t be done. But Yoder and House Majority Leader Ray Merrick have shown that this can be done.

Siegfreid said that it is apparent that the administration’s position is to raise taxes, and it is their only position. Sales taxes, cigarette and tobacco taxes, alcohol taxes, elimination of sales tax exemptions, raising taxes on utilities, and now an income tax increase have been in the mix.

He reminded the audience that these taxes would be on top of a large increase in unemployment insurance taxes caused by a mistake made by the Kansas Department of Labor.

The Kansas House Leadership has attempted to help the people of Kansas, Siegfreid said. He listed a number of proposed measures that have not passed, including health care savings accounts, a simplified tax structure, requiring the Department of Revenue to pay a penalty if they delay tax refunds, a property tax bill that did not allow for automatic increases, and the PEAK bill, an economic development bill for very small companies, which was vetoed by the governor.

The House has led the way over the last several years in creating a good environment for capital in the state of Kansas, Siegfreid told the audience, adding that “We have to have capital investment if we are to create jobs, and what Kansas needs is jobs. … In any real sense, government increases revenue only when business and individuals prosper. We should not depend on tax increases. We should depend on prosperity to increase revenue.”

Representative Ray Merrick, who is House Majority Leader, explained the political reality in the House. There are 76 Republican members of the House, but Merrick said that on the “very best day” there are 55 who will vote with him, meaning they are conservative Republicans. 63 votes are required to pass legislation in the House.

He recited the large annual increases in the budget in recent years as evidence that our problem in Kansas is spending, not lack of revenue. Noting that no members of the Senate Leadership are present at the AFP event, he said they are not “of like mind.” (Americans for Prosperity advocates for limited government and free markets.) Their game plan from the beginning, he said, was to not look for savings in the budget, but to increase taxes. Their interest is in growing government.

While the governor has said he will veto a budget that doesn’t include tax increases, Merrick said we should let him do just that. He added that perhaps the session could be finished by Friday May 7.

In answering a question, Merrick said that Missouri has a billion dollar budget deficit. Its Democratic governor said that Missouri will balance its budget without raising taxes. Missouri is also considering eliminating the corporate income tax, followed by elimination of the personal income tax.

Warning of the danger of temporary tax increase such as the Kansas Governor is proposing, Merrick reminded the audience that in 2002 Kansas passed what was to be a temporary increase in the sales tax, but that increase has not gone away.

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