Buying access – If middle-class Kansans are curious about how they can make their voices heard in Topeka, they should take a cue from Rodney Steven. For several years, Steven and his Genesis Health Clubs have pressed legislators to address what he viewed as inequity in a tax system that charged his for-profit clubs sales and property taxes, while allowing recreation centers and YMCAs to organize as tax-exempt nonprofits. This year, however, Steven put his money – about $45,000 – behind his request, and now this previously ignored bill has some senators’ ears, and some momentum. The GOP-dominated Senate voted to advance Senate Bill 72, which grants a property-tax exemption. Stevens and Genesis donated money to 24 of 40 of the Senate’s current members, including most of the members of the assessment and taxation committee, where the bill originated.
Risky bet – What will happen if Gov. Sam Brownback gets his way and is able to eliminate the state income tax? According to Duane Goossen, a former secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration who also was the state’s budget director, individual income tax makes up 46.5 percent – or $2.8 billion – of the $6.2 billion state general-fund budget and sales tax represents 41.7 percent, with the rest made up of corporate, severance, tobacco, liquor and other taxes. Imagine what you’d have to do if you lost nearly half your household income. So, do you bet your future on the hard numbers of a former budget director, or on someone who hopes eliminating the income tax will help land him in the White House? Let’s put it this way. Casinos thrive on people who are willing to make bets like the one Brownback and his allies are making.
Pickpockets – Beware, Kansans. A band of pickpockets is roaming your state Capitol. They are your state legislators, desperately seeking cash after giving it away in the form of income-tax cuts last session. The disastrous tax move has stripped the Kansas Legislature of its integrity. There is no promise that can’t be broken, no pot of money in state government safe from plunder. The Kansas Legislature has the feel of a powerful family whose members have been reduced to raiding their own estates and assets. Why in the world would neighboring Missouri want to make the same sorry mistakes?
Kansas City Star
Education meddling – Despite the Kansas Constitution’s explicit instructions for the State Board of Education and Kansas Board of Regents to control and supervise all public schools and institutions, legislators attempt to wrangle governance responsibilities away from them. Lawmakers need to focus on properly funding all school districts – and leave the education part to educators. The Kansas Constitution sort of requires it.
Hays Daily News
KU mandate – The capricious Kansas Legislature has struck again with a bill ordering the University of Kansas Medical Center to create a new adult stem-cell research center. The center was the brainchild of legislators, who even gave it a name: the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. It wasn’t part of any KU request, but legislators think such a center would be good for the state. However, the center is not so important to them that they are willing to allocate any state funds to get it started. So much for KU trying to plan or focus its efforts on key priorities. Legislators have some priorities of their own.