Kansas tax increases promoted, even by Republicans


Last week Kansas Senator John Vratil, a Leawood Republican who is Vice-President of the Senate, sent a letter to constituents asking for feedback on how to generate more revenue for Kansas state government.

The letter states “The Senate Ways and Means Committee has worked hard to cut ‘the fat’ out of state government while striving to hold education harmless.” The letter notes that the Kansas general fund budget is now $5.4 billion, and that education and required social services amount to $4.6 billion of that.

Vratil promotes the tax on drinks sweetened with sugar, which would add about ten cents to the cost of a 12 ounce can of pop. Vratil says the tax would raise an estimated $90 million in revenue per year.

The Senate leadership — Vratil being part of that — has already announced plans to push for a tax increase.

Other Republican senators may be jumping on the tax bandwagon, too. Last week Senator Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the Assessment and Taxation Committee, said during a committee hearing: “We have to do something on the revenue side. … We don’t know if we can cut enough spending.” He said that if we can’t cut spending, “we’re going to do something to raise some revenue, some way.”

(Today Donovan proposed increasing the state sales tax rate by 0.7 percentage points, removing the sales tax from food in three years. He will also propose increases on taxes for cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks sweetened with sugar. The increase in the sales tax is a 13.2% increase in the rate.)

On a Kansas conservative message board, one poster expressed support for a soda tax, saying that people could avoid the tax by not purchasing soda. Another poster disagreed, calling the soda tax “another area of government encroachment on our decisions,” concluding that “Unfortunately, the senators are not looking out for the health of Kansans as much as looking to get more of the wealth of Kansans.”

Another poster contended that Vratil’s assertion of Kansas already “cutting the agencies to the bone” is an overstatement of the cuts, and that there’s plenty of slack in state employment and management practices. Specifically,

The false premise being presented by Sen. Vratil is that all the agencies and departments that are recipients of government money are cut to the “bone.” Really? What these folks consider a “bone” many of us would still see as filet mignon.

We have to start here. There is no doubt that on any budget your employees are your greatest cost, but the real question is is there a necessity for all those employees? We have layers of bureaucracy that are costing us a fortune. We have managers managing managers and departments created as political payback for years of campaign support. Public service unions are dictating the state budget rather than “best business” practices. Now before I have all the folks who are state employees cursing me, let me stress that my comments are not directed at those who are working hard every day and giving their best to their employers. I am making my assertions on personal information and experience that I have observed for years. The public service unions handcuff managers from releasing poor performers on a daily basis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that departments could run with 80% less staff and not a single tax payer would know the difference. I am sympathetic to folks losing their jobs, but when did it become the taxpayers responsibility to ensure employment for our neighbors? I would rather ensure that they have job opportunities from the private sector. Those opportunities will continue to diminish with the type of tax-and-spend practices that are currently directing the state budget.

Another poster wondered how a tax on soda would decrease consumption of what’s deemed an “undesirable” product, while a general sales tax would not produce the same effect on all goods:

Has anyone ever asked Mr. Morris or Vratil or any other tax hike supporter how they can claim a tax on soda will make us all healthier because we’ll stop buying as much, but then claim an across the board 1% sales tax isn’t supposed to hurt the economy at all? If a tax on soda or cigarettes or alcohol is enough to decrease consumption, doesn’t it stand to reason that an across the board sales tax increase would have the same effect? Have these legislators ever been challenged about this blatant contradiction?

With moderate and even some conservative Republicans proposing tax increases, it’s going to be a tough battle for senate Republicans to hold the line on taxes.


16 responses to “Kansas tax increases promoted, even by Republicans”

  1. I’m telling you guys, their not real Republicans.
    Everyone knows you have to write Republican on your ticket to get elected in Kansas whether you are or not. Once your in your free to frolic amongst the tax and spenders all you want.
    Serious reform is needed in the party. It’s disgusting really.
    One reason I stayed in Kansas was the fact that I was led to believe all those years ago that it was a conservative State. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice….

  2. Barbara

    Sen. Donovan has always ran his campaigns as a fiscal and social conservative but he has been in Topeka since 1993 increasing taxes under Democrat and Republican administrations. He was originally appointed to the Senate, otherwise, he would have never been elected to that position. If he runs again, he will have a Republican challenger.

  3. Anonymous

    It’s a shame that Stephen Morris and John Vratil are in power. We’d be much better off with Susan Wagle as senate president. I blame Julia Lynn and Carolyn McGinn for this mistake. Oh, and Jim Barnett, who tapped Wagle for his lieutenant governor running mate, but couldn’t bring himself to vote for her, as a conservative, in the senate president election.

  4. Anon.

    Anonymous is exactly right.

  5. LonnythePlumber

    Senator Donovan has a reasonable proposal.
    The other remark,
    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that departments could run with 80% less staff and not a single tax payer would know the difference.”, seems over the top.

  6. Anonymous

    For all his conservative talk Sen Donovan is also the champion of nanny state seatbelt laws

  7. Could you add an RSS feed option for subscribing? I greatly prefer RSS to email.

  8. Mike

    Hi, the reason that we really need a soda tax, is that we would be able to provide 60 jobs in Wichita KS to collect the soda tax. We need a spaghetti tax, french fry tax, and a chili cheese fry tax too. A Orange Juice tax would help get the money out of those pesky Vegans, and Orange Juice only sounds healthy. We’ll probably need a new office building to house all of the new employees. What a great day for Wichita… We could put the new building on the Water Walk ;^)


  9. Roxie, try this for an RSS feed:


    The link for it is buried way down in my sidebar. My apologies.

  10. B.D.

    Put a new building on the Water Walk, Mike? You mean walk on water, with so many prescient humans running our state like they know best for all aren’t they instead gods? Maybe they could pass a bill.

  11. Mike

    Hi, good to know at least somebody around here knows sarcasm when they read it!!! Everyone in Government wants to buy me things I don’t want, don’t need, and can’t use, AND they want me to pay for it. My kid’s education cost substantially more than mine did beginning in 1966, and they received far less value.

    I remember being very disgusted when Height’s principal stated that on Wednesdays, all of the kids actually had to be in school all day. I guess the other four days of the week they were too busy doing extra-curricular junk.

    I am also disgusted that my son remembers Darwin’s theory from a Sociology class, not from Biology class. In their defense, this was during the lawsuit period.

    I am further disgusted that the browser’s spell checker doesn’t allow for a possessive form of the term children.


  12. KipSchroeder

    I agree with Joel and Barbara. It would be nearly impossible to be in power for 17 years and to remain true to your conservative roots. I wish more men and women would voluntarily limit the number of terms they would serve. While I did not support all that Senator Brownback did in the US Senate I have a huge amount of respect for his integrity in honoring his original pledge to serve no longer than two full terms. What is the likelihood that Rep. Tiahrt will stand for similar principles? Is anyone aware of any other Kansas legislators who’ve made such a commitment?

  13. randy aronis

    There is a prevailing thought that the more money the government has the more wealth can be created in which to provide existing and or new services for the betterment of all. Unfortunately history demonstrates this is not the case. No New Taxes.

    By taking more of one’s income the effect will be dissuading work and inhibiting new productivity, which leads to lower collected taxes. The problem gets worse. This is because and every study on economic policy points to this, behaviors change. Raise the tax and we stop buying that particular item or service. Thus less tax revenue is collected. Economics and monetary policy is not a static discipline. Short term thought is not the solution for a long term problem.

    Taxation is the Governments way of taking what would be productive money, that which can be used to purchase goods and services or creating innovation, and in turn spending that money in un-productivity ways. Doesn’t seem like an effective method for stimulating the economy or filling the gaps in a budget.

    How do you then create additional tax revenue? By lowering the marginal tax rates, so that at every level of income the proportion remaining would be in the hands of workers and producers would be larger. The net effect is the cost of making additional work or increases in overall productivity, and investing would fall. We would be making the dollar more productive. In essences getting more value from each dollar.

    As we increase the productivity of that dollar spent the economy expands, and thus the tax base and revenues to the state. In other words, by having policies that increase the velocity of the dollar being spent and knowing that there is a tax paid every time that same dollar changes hands, we expand the economy and increase exponentially the revenue coming into the state.

    There are two possible tax rates that will generate the same level of government revenue. If taxes are zero, the state revenue is zero and the people retain 100 percent of the income. If the tax rate is 100 percent the productive people will have no motivation to work and thus the states revenue is still zero. My point? We are on the wrong side of this equation. And it is not even close.

    The economy and the business cycle are more pure and predictable with less government intervention, not more. Now is not the time, nor is there any time that more taxes is the right strategy. Let’s not be sucked into the scam that more taxes mean a larger bank account for the state. Not so.

    I hope you find this letter written in a cooperative tone and that it delivers what you and other conservatives should be promoting and fighting for. No New Taxes.

  14. […] Vratil has been in favor of a variety of tax increases, including raising the sales tax and starting a tax on soda pop. […]

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    A little boy at a wedding looks at his mom and says, “Mommy, why does the girl wear white?”
    His mom replies, “The bride is in white because she’s happy and this is the happiest day of her life.”
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    Happy April Fool’s Day!

  16. […] Senator Les Donovan, who is chair of the Kansas Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee spoke about the tax increase proposals that were heard in that committee. His committee heard several days of testimony on raising various taxes such as the sales tax, alcohol tax, tobacco tax, and creating a new tax on sugar in soft drinks. Donovan “moderated” each of these taxes, proposing to implement them at a lower rate than what was introduced in the bill. But each tax bill failed to make it out of that committee. (See Kansas sugar tax testimony heard, bill doesn’t advance, Tax on beer, liquor subject of Kansas Senate committee hearing, and Kansas tax increases promoted, even by Republicans.) […]

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