The Kansas legislature opened session Monday morning and Riley County commissioners are bracing for another frustrating year as the state budget continues to face massive shortfalls.
County Counselor Clancy Holeman briefed commissioners Monday morning on impending bills that has their attention and learned one of those pieces of legislation — the state-imposed property tax — may see some unwanted amendments for an already unpopular direction from Topeka.
Holeman told commissioners the effective date of the tax lid may move up to July 1 of this year, rather than Jan. 1, 2018.
“That obviously has dramatic impact on how counties across the state plan for the future in terms of their finances,” Holeman said.
Leaders in local government across the state have been unified in their opposition to the tax lid, which they contend is a power-grab from the state. Critics of the legislation also say the state has no business micro-managing local budgets when the legislature has shown it can’t manage its own.
Commissioner Robert Boyd — who hasn’t been shy about his frustrations with the state — sounded off.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” he said. “This angers me to no end, that we have people thinking this is good legislative policy.”
Commissioners Ron Wells and Ben Wilson — along with county clerk Rich Vargo — were in agreement with Boyd’s remarks.
Holeman added that exemptions that were previously included in the tax lid may be back on the table, too.
“There are a series of deletions of exemptions that were in there previously, in the bill,” Holeman said. “They’ve taken out the exemption for costs for new infrastructure and costs for improving existing infrastructure.
“Judgments levied against cities or counties or expenses for legal — I don’t know why you would not leave, as an exemption, a judgement against the county, because that’s not something the county would have been able to plan for.”
Boyd had an answer.
“Well, you’re assuming rational thought,” he told Holeman.
The tax lid was passed under the table last summer when lawmakers scrambled to pass a budget well into the early morning hours during an extended session. Critics contend the tax lid was slipped in as a saving-face move after lawmakers increased sales tax and passed the largest tax increase in state history in an attempt to balance the budget, which, they still didn’t accomplish.
Holeman said another baffling possible change includes allowing unfunded mandates from the federal or state government to still count against a city or county’s budget.
“Any mandate that is unfunded still counts against you in this bill,” he said. “Which is bazaar.”