By Nick Gosnell
March 1, 2017
Kansas Action for Children President and CEO Annie McKay told an audience in Topeka Tuesday afternoon why that group has focused on tax policy this session as its top legislative priority, because without a change in tax policy, kids in Kansas will always be a target.
“We can’t afford to be a no income tax state,” said McKay. “We’re not Texas, nor do I want to be Texas, I want to be Kansas. We’re not Florida. We don’t have the sunny beaches. We don’t have the tourism. We don’t have the gambling of Nevada, and we’re never going to have those types of revenue.”
She then went back to an old illustration from former Kansas Governor Bill Graves.
“What we need is a balanced three-legged stool,” McKay said. “The three legs of that stool include sales tax, property tax and income tax. We’ve taken a hatchet to the income tax leg and, not surprisingly, have become really wobbly. We need to put that back on.”
The Kansas Legislature passed a tax increase that would have restored most of the taxes from 2012, but that bill was vetoed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
Even though KAC is part of a group that is advocating for the restoration of three tax brackets, McKay also noted other ways the state could raise revenue, like rolling back some property tax exemptions.
“That exemption list totals nearly six billion dollars,” said McKay. “There are a lot of other ways in which we can reform our tax code and begin to bring out stability. I think we want to look at that into the future. First things first, we have to address the problem. The problem directly goes back to what we did in 2012.”
McKay believes that getting something very similar to what already passed through with a two-thirds majority in both chambers is doable.
“Three votes short, that’s not insurmountable,” said McKay. “Think about how far we’ve come. Three votes we can get. I know that we can. I know that we can achieve comprehensive tax reform. I know that we can save the Children’s Initiative Fund.”
Securitizing the tobacco money on which the CIF is based was a big part of balancing the two-year budget in 2018 and 2019, according to the Governor’s budget recommendation. If comprehensive tax reform becomes law, that securitization may not be necessary. The Governor’s plan will likely be debated on the House floor following turnaround, if for no other reason than to potentially vote it down in hopes of getting a better deal.