October 24, 2014

OUR VIEW: Charter commissioners should support tax repeal proposals

Voters should be able to repeal certain taxes, and at least one appointee to the Johnson County Charter Commission, Bernie Bianchino, agrees.
He’s proposed a series of amendments to the county charter – essentially the county’s constitution – that would give voters the ability to repeal a sales tax or a property tax increase through a petition drive and ballot referendum.
Kansas statute allows voters to gather signatures and petition for a referendum to raise taxes, but there are no provisions to revoke one once instituted.
Bianchino’s proposals face a variety of hurdles before they can be implemented. The most daunting is a concern that the county doesn’t have the legal authority to institute such a rule. Bianchino, an attorney himself, believes the county can. Lawyers will be asked to weigh-in on the topic but only if the charter commission approves Bianchino’s proposals.
There’s no certainty that will occur. Bianchino’s proposal to allow voters to repeal sales taxes received a small margin of approval when a little more than half of the members of the charter commission agreed to allow for research and consideration of the proposal. Bianchino’s property tax repeal proposal fell on deaf ears, and fewer than half of the commissioners agreed to allow the proposal to move forward. Some on the commission feared the property tax proposal would limit local governing bodies’ abilities to plan for their fiscal future.
Bianchino continued researching the idea anyway, and hopes to bring forward a formal proposal that would allow voters to repeal property tax increases.
Should both proposals – the sales tax repeal and the property tax repeal – win approval from the 25-member charter commission, they must still garner the support of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners.
And then, there’s another hurdle yet. Voters will be asked to approve all of the charter commission’s recommended proposals on a ballot.
No matter how the politics or the legal issues on Bianchino’s proposals shake out, the proposals should receive more attention than they have to date.
State law should provide provisions for voters to roll back taxes, especially since it appears so few politicians have the will or stomach to live within their means.
We hope Bianchino’s proposals find support among his fellow charter commissioners, from the county commissioners, and from the public at-large.

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