Compromise needed with Kansas taxes

The Editorial Staff

As if Kansas’s current budget crisis wasn’t big enough, lawmakers have proposed lowering or even ending the state’s grocery tax completely.

There are two competing plans making their way through committee. House Bill 2444 would place a change in the state’s constitution to lower the state’s grocery tax, currently at 6.5 percent, every year until it reaches zero by 2019. If it passes through legislature, it would go to voters in November.

Another plan, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1612, would lower the tax to only 2.6 percent while ending the income tax exemption on 330,000 businesses. Those exemptions are part of Governor Brownback’s overall tax plan to eliminate income taxes in the state altogether.

The idea of both bills is to lower the already high grocery tax and ease the burden on lower income people. Every state around Kansas has lower or no grocery tax. It is a noble cause. However, as a state we cannot afford to not have grocery tax in addition to no income tax. The Topeka Capital Journal reported the ultimate elimination of the tax would mean losing $350 million in revenue.

At a time when we are already facing closure of all public K-12 schools – mandated by the courts if lawmakers can’t fix the problem before July – because of unconstitutional funding the legislature, as well as a $200 million shortfall in the overall budget while diverting funds from highways and more, can we really afford to be talking about lowering more taxes?

We at the Review understand that it is an election year. Lawmakers want to look good when campaigning to their constituents this August through November. We also understand the need to ease the tax burden on lower income families, especially for food. But, now is not the time for politics.

If lawmakers really wanted to help lower income families, the legislature should repeal Brownback’s income tax exemptions from 330,000 business and start funding our school system and highways properly. Then we can talk about lowering sales taxes on groceries.

Voters – Washburn students included – should make their voices heard. They should call their legislators. They can visit to find out who their representative is as well as to read the two competing bills. Tell them that they should fix the budget shortfalls and fully fund schools and other important government institutions before pitting ideology against reality.

It is time Kansas’s financial situation was fixed and the budget balanced. In order to do that, compromises – a dirty word in politics – have to be reached.