TOPEKA – Who really speaks for the business community?
Last week, more than a dozen local chambers of commerce said they would be wiling to accept some tax increases to prevent further cuts to education and maintaining the state's transportation infrastructure.
"We urge the Kansas Legislature and Governor to make cuts the state can withstand but also make the difficult decisions necessary to maintain our state's quality of life for its citizens and for the future growth of Kansas," said the letter sent to state leaders. "If revenues must be enhanced for basic government services our chambers can support rational state revenue enhancements."
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In response, the state Chamber of Commerce sent out a release saying the 14 chambers – which included Arkansas City, Overland Park, Olathe, Hutchison/Reno County, Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas – of throwing businesses under the bus.
Then the National Federation of Independent Business fired back saying it worried that lawmakers would try to balance the budget on the backs of small business.
"Unlike other business groups, our public policy positions are based on input from our members," said state director Dan Murray.
The federation's businesses have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of raising state taxes to address budget shortfalls, he said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, entered the fray voicing support for the 14 chambers of commerce which sent the letter and for increasing some taxes.
While tax structure was an important part of attracting business to the state, there were other important components, Parkinson said.
Serving on the multiple chambers of commerce – including Olathe and Shawnee – and in public office, Parkinson said he's gone out and recruited companies to the state.
"The state chamber doesn't do that, they don't go out and actively talk to prospects to the state," the governor said.
While prospective businesses cared about the state's tax structure they also cared about the quality of schools and roads and that the neighborhoods were safe, he said.
"When you want to attract businesses to the state, it is a mixture of tax structure and great communities," Parkinson said. "The state chamber has one singular focus on lower taxes and that is not enough."