Governor defends need for ‘courageous’ tax increase for state

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
At election time, when rhetoric always runs rampant, I feel compelled to set the record straight and thank those legislators who had the courage to make the tough votes for the citizens of Kansas and our future rather than an expedient vote for their legislative careers.

* * *

What would have happened without a tax increase to enhance state revenue?

– Prisons in Stockton, Toronto, Osawatomie and one unit in El Dorado would have closed.

– Criminal offender programs would have been eliminated, resulting in criminals returning to society without the benefit of the treatment, education and job skills training designed to keep them from committing additional crimes.

– Some local schools would have closed.

– Schools would have reduced teaching staff and increased class sizes.

– Schools would have eliminated programs, including music, foreign languages, computer classes and athletic programs.

– Fewer Kansans would have access to higher education.

– Fewer elderly citizens would have received assistance to stay in their homes.

– Disabled citizens would have gone without food and shelter.

– Fewer restaurants would have been inspected.

– Fewer social workers would have been available to investigate child-abuse cases.

– Citizens would have reduced access to courts at a local level.

– Citizens would have fewer local driver’s license offices.

– Citizens would have fewer new jobs in Kansas.

– Fewer roads would be maintained, and new road projects would have been eliminated.

– Atchison Juvenile Correction Facility would have closed.

– Dangerous criminals would be living in your community.

Don’t be fooled by the “fat in government” argument that is often quoted as the excuse for not making the tough vote on tax issues.

* * *

Is there “fat in government?”

– There are 3,042 fewer state employees than there were in 1995, which constitutes a 7.3 percent reduction in workforce.

– Excluding education and social services, general government spending is 6.8 percent less than it was three years ago.

– During the past eight years, inflation rose a total of 19.3 percent.

* * *

Why have education and social-services budgets increased?

– Huge yearly increases in medical expenses have driven up the costs of services to mentally and physically challenged Kansans and the elderly.

– Medical assistance has also been expanded to help children who don’t have insurance.

– Property-tax reductions from 35 to 20 mils has transferred the cost of funding schools to the state general fund (not an actual increase in expenditures on education but is an increase in expenditures from the state general fund).

Legislators and candidates are attempting to mislead you if they point to the overall growth of state expenditures. This figure exaggerates the actual growth of state government because it includes the shift of funding for local schools from local property tax to the state general fund.

* * *

What has happened to Kansans’ yearly tax assessments?

-State property taxes have been reduced 28.6 percent.

– Property taxes on motor vehicles has been reduced by 50 percent.

– Food sales-tax rebates have increased by over 1000 percent.

– Earned-income tax credits have increased from zero to over $20 million.

– Business tax incentives have been used to generate new jobs and keep businesses in Kansas.

– Kansans have enjoyed $4.8 billion in fewer tax assessments.

– Kansans will now be assessed an increase on $253 million in taxes on cigarettes and sales.

-Cigarette taxes will increase 55 cents per pack.

– Sales tax increased by 0.4 percent with 0.3 percent sunset over the next three years.

* * *

How did we get here?

-In one year, tax revenue unexpectedly plummeted almost 10 percent.

-Tax revenue was predicted to increase about 5 percent, consistent with previous years.

-Tax increases would not have been necessary if revenue had met projections.

n Like Kansas, 47 states are facing severe revenue shortfalls.

State government is performing more services with fewer people and fewer dollars. Could more be reduced? Certainly, but it means reductions in services available to some Kansans and slower service to others. Reductions can not occur without impacting citizens of this state, including our children and elderly.

Please keep in mind that this year’s state budget includes millions of dollars in reductions to state programs and services. If you don’t believe these reductions are real, talk to the citizens in those communities that lost a local driver’s license office or a community grant meant to revitalize the downtown community.

This is hardly what should be called irresponsible overspending. Don’t be deceived by the rhetoric.

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