After months of controversy, a bill capping city and county property taxes slid easily through the Kansas House and to the governor’s desk on Friday night.
The bill makes significant changes to a tax-lid bill the Legislature passed last year. It also moves up the date of implementation by a year, from 2018 to 2017.
But the basic concept remains the same: limiting local governments’ spending increases to a state-calculated consumer price index.
Income above that, mostly due to increases in property values, would have to be returned to taxpayers through cuts in the property tax rate.
Local governments would have to hold and win a public election if they wanted to keep any revenue above the tax lid.
Early on, the tax lid was a go-to-war issue for almost all of the state’s cities and counties, the one notable exception being the Sedgwick County Commission, whose conservative majority embraced it.
In the legislative process, cities and counties managed to gain key exceptions to the tax cap and eventually changed their opposition to a neutral stance, said Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park and chairman of the House Taxation Committee.
One major exception to the tax lid is that cities and counties will be able to keep their increased income when temporary tax abatements for redevelopment expire and the properties involved return to the tax rolls.
In addition, local governments will be able to exceed the tax lid to pay for increased costs of police, fire and emergency medical services.
New expenses mandated by federal or state government also won’t count against the local governments’ tax lids.
“We asked, both on the Senate and the House leadership side, to have the cities and counties work with the proponents of the tax lid to come up with solutions,” Kleeb said. They were “able to come up with solutions that worked for both sides.”
Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita and ranking minority member of the taxation committee, also spoke in favor of the bill.
“There was lot of good work put into this bill, and I think we ended up with a pretty good piece of legislation,” Sawyer said.