The following is an editorial from Senate Minority Leader Terry Bruce of Nickerson
Any elected official who has canvassed door-to-door, participated in public forums or reviews their constituent correspondence knows that property taxes are the most hated of all taxes. In fact, Kansans are demanding action from all those currently in office. And make no mistake, they are right to do so.
According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, Kansans have seen counties increase their property taxes by an average of 117% from 1997 to 2013 or 7.3% annually. Additionally, during this same time period, Kansas’ first class cities have increased their property tax burden by 97.1% or 6.1% annually. These are staggering increases when one realizes that the rate of inflation has been 2.4% annually and the state’s populations grew only about .6% from 1997 to 2013. How, in good conscience, can the government expect everyday Kansans to continue to shoulder such a massive burden?
For this and many other reasons, the legislature approved a proposal that requires local units of government to submit property tax increases above the rate of inflation to the voters for approval. The State of Kansas enforced a similar “cap” on property increases up until 1999. Given the public outcry over property tax rates, the legislature felt returning to a process based on transparency and public participation was more than prudent.
Despite the glaring data mentioned earlier, some have suggested that the legislature is being unfair to local units of government by requiring them to abide by rules the legislature does not follow itself. However, after talking with members of the Kansas Senate, there appears to be strong support for giving Kansas voters a greater say in the state’s taxation process. The 2016 Legislative Session is likely to bring forward a number of proposals to increase transparency for all taxpayers. This is truly a win for all Kansas property tax payers.