TOPEKA — Kansas House members will get to voice their thoughts today on a bill that would eliminate state sales tax exemptions on Kansans' utility bills and churches.
House Bill 2549 came out of the House Taxation Committee with no recommendation.
The measure would add about $170 million to the state's anemic general fund. Most of that — about $140 million — would come from eliminating a 1970s-era state sales tax exemption on utilities.
Additional revenue would come from requiring churches to pay the state's 5.3 percent sales tax on goods they purchase. The measure would also levy the state sales tax on lottery tickets.
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The House convenes at 10:30 a.m. today.
It is just one of the many options lawmakers are considering to help close a projected $467 million budget gap for the 2011 fiscal year.
On Monday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on a bill that would eliminate sales tax exemptions, similar to the one the House will debate. The Senate bill also would eliminate sales tax exemptions for all named nonprofits and would levy a tax against memberships to organizations like the YMCA.
Jim Hattan, president of the Greater Wichita YMCA, told the committee that taxing memberships would cut into the services and programs YMCAs offer across the state.
When asked by two lawmakers where the state should cut, Hattan said he did not have suggestions.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, noted that a child who benefits from reduced-cost programs through the YMCA probably also uses state programs that have already seen their budgets reduced.
"We're cutting right now. They are gone," she said.
Support for increasing state revenue is not pervasive though. Shortly after it was announced that the full House would debate the sales tax exemption proposal, House Speaker Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, issued a statement saying the solution was to cut state spending more.
"We know that Kansas has a spending problem, not a revenue problem," he said. "House Republicans also know that the real answer to this crisis is to have state government take a lesson from Kansas families and learn to live within its means."
O'Neal urged House Democrats to work across the aisle to craft a budget "that curtails government spending and restores the balance between the private and public sector while maintaining critical services."