Corbet, Mast vote for record tax increase

TOPEKA—All three of Osage County’s representatives were present for a 4 a.m. vote Friday morning – the extended 112th day of the normally 90 day legislative session.

Legislators emerged with the approval of House Bill 2109 and Senate Bill 270, reportedly the largest tax increase in Kansas history. The bill’s main source of new revenue is an increase to the sales tax from 6.15 to 6.5 percent.

“It gives us the highest sales tax rate on food in the nation. Low-income people will be paying the highest rate in the nation,” Anthony Hensley said in The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Brownback’s tax policy is Robin Hood in reverse. He steals from the poor to benefit the rich.”

Hensley is Senator for the 19th District, which includes all of Osage County.

“These companion bills are a $400 million tax increase on nearly every aspect of life for Kansans across the state, while continuing a huge loophole that allows over 300,000 businesses to avoid paying any taxes at all,” said Blaine Finch, 59th District representative, Ottawa.

House representatives Ken Corbet, Topeka, and Peggy Mast, Emporia, voted for the tax increase.

“We are required to have a balanced budget,” Mast told The Capital-Journal. “Anything less than financing it is an unconstitutional act by this body.”

Both had violated signed pledges through Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform not to raise taxes.

“Pledges you should take very seriously,” Corbet said in a statement to The Capital-Journal. “It’s like a flood or tornado, you got an emergency, you have to take a look at it.”

Finch, who voted against the two bills, had not signed either pledge.

Previous versions of the bill included a decrease on the sales tax for food, which was removed from the bill passed Friday morning.

“Despite what some have said, this vote was never about protecting our schools or our state services,” Finch said. “It was about so-called leaders who wanted to keep big corporate tax breaks and continue shifting the burden from big business to the little guy. I fought for real revenue reform that would close the loopholes, stop putting the state budget on a credit card, and bring sanity and stability to our state budget.”

The bill also includes an additional $50 million in unspecified cuts to be made by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

“At no point this session was a real fix to the state’s budget crisis offered,” Finch said. “The only options considered were Band-Aids that played favorites in our tax code, allowing big businesses to continue to game the system while Kansans are left to pick up the tab.”

The plan also cripples the ability of communities to levy funds to replace services and funding cut by the state through a provision that requires a public vote for any increase in taxes beyond legislation.

Additional provisions include a 50 cent increase in state cigarette taxes to $1.29, and the anticipated collection of $47 million in fees to managed care organizations. That legislation will result in an insurance increase for 78,000 HMO policies, according to The Kansas City Business Journal.

The proposal does exclude up to 380,000 of the poorest Kansans from paying income tax, and did not include previous threats to remove some deductions for contributions to non-profit entities.

The SB270 received final approval from the Senate on June 12, and awaits signature from Brownback, who publicly applauded the passing of the budget.

“Kansans deserve better than this,” Finch said. “Since 2012 it has been abundantly clear that the state would find itself in the hole we are in today, yet the pursuit in Topeka of continuing this bad fiscal policy has been relentless.”

The business exemptions, responsible for this year’s $800 million shortfall, remained untouched. Brownback had threatened to veto any bill that included an increase on business taxes – a single stroke that could have averted ongoing issues.

Instead, taxes were increased for everyone else.

“Good governing at times requires the courage to stand up and say enough is enough,” Finch said. “This is one of those times, so I vote no on these bills.”

Area sales tax rates as of July 1

Auburn 9.15%
Burlingame 8.5%
Burlington 8.5%
Carbondale 9.5%
Emporia 8.5%
Lebo 7.5%
Lyndon 9%
Lawrence 9.05%
Melvern 8.5%
Olivet 7.5%
Osage City 9%
Ottawa 9.1%
Overbrook 8.5%
Pomona 10%
Quenemo 7.5%
Scranton 8.5%
Topeka 9.15%
Waverly 6.5%

Coffey County 6.5%
Douglas County 7.5%
Franklin County 8%
Osage County 7.5%
Shawnee County 7.65%
Wabaunsee County 8%

The Osage County Herald-Chronicle

The official newspaper of Osage County; the cities of Burlingame, Carbondale, Lyndon, Melvern, Olivet, Osage City, Overbrook, Quenemo and Scranton; Burlingame USD 454, Lyndon USD 421, Marais des Cygnes Valley USD 456, Osage City USD 420 and Santa Fe Trail USD 434.

All content @1863-2016 Osage County Herald-Chronicle, unless otherwise stated.

Print edition published every Thursday.


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