Conservative legislators seem poised to break a promise to voters not to raise taxes. Though the Legislature cut taxes two years ago, a budget deficit looms.
The Kansas Legislature is on hiatus until the veto session, which begins April 29. When lawmakers return to Topeka, they’ll need to find a way to plug the budget hole. To date, the suggested solutions stick a knife in promises to cut spending rather than increase taxes.
Gov. Brownback proposed raising taxes on cigarettes and liquor. Legislators have suggested raising revenue by increasing gas or sales taxes.
We oppose any attempts to increase revenue through sales taxes, sin taxes and especially fuel taxes. Fuel and across-the-board sales tax increases are regressive. They hit the poor hardest, because those taxes add to necessities, and take a larger percentage of income of the lowest earners.
We are especially disgusted by proposals to increase gas taxes. Yes, the price of fuel has dropped in the last several months. The drop in fuel prices couldn’t come at a better time, because it is off-setting the pain of stagnated incomes. America hasn’t had a raise in 15 years, according to a U.S. Census wage study released in 2013. The report showed that after adjusting for inflation, the median household income hasn’t increased in 15 years. The income of the median U.S. household is just under $52,000. Still. That’s 8 percent lower than it was in before the recession, and 9 percent lower than the 1999 peak median income.
The very last thing Kansans can afford is an increase in the fuel tax. And that’s unlikely to add the bottom line the way state officials believe it will. A majority of Kansans live within a few miles of another state. If Kansas’ gas tax spikes too much, many will simply drive across the border to fuel up. Ditto for adding sales taxes to booze and cigarettes. At least in this part of the state, drinkers and smokers will simply drive to the other side of the state line to stock up.
Adding sales tax to other necessities like food and clothing hurts poorer and middle class Kansans as well.
Kansans gained when legislators lowered income taxes. We would hate to see those gains erased by a Legislature unwilling to make the painful spending cuts. Something has to give in the state’s budget, and we believe that something should be on the other side of the ledger.
Voters responded well to legislators’ promises to lower taxes. Hence a Legislature dominated by conservative lawmakers.
They should keep their promises.