On Nov. 6, Kansans will head to the polls to cast their ballots for their choices in elected officials at the local, state and national levels. They will ponder weighty issues such as the economy and foreign policy as they make their selections.
However, as they vote in these races, one item may get overlooked. That is a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would allow the Legislature to change how it taxes boats.
A “yes” vote for the proposition would allow the legislature to separately classify and tax watercraft or to exempt watercraft from property taxes. A “no” vote would not allow the change.
Why is this an issue? As it stands now, for Kansas county property tax purposes, watercraft are taxed using a formula that multiplies 30 percent of a vessel’s value by the county mill levy.
This means that the tax rates in Kansas are much higher than surrounding states. In fact, three neighboring states – Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri – do not have a property tax on watercraft, and neither do Texas and Iowa.
Consequently, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism estimates 10,000 Kansans register (and often store) their boats in other states. The department has about 85,000 watercraft listed.
So, Kansas boat owners pay more in taxes than their counterparts in other states. And, due to the out-of-state registrations, Kansas counties miss out on the tax revenue.
With nearby access to two large lakes and ample water-based recreation, this is a big deal around here.
The watercraft tax formula is set by the constitution, which is why an amendment is necessary. Granted, passage of the amendment doesn’t mean change is a sure thing, but it gives lawmakers the opening to make it happen.
“Property taxes on watercraft in Kansas are so high that they impede boat ownership, limiting families’ opportunity for wholesome water recreation,” said Robin Jennison, KDWPT secretary. “The Legislature showed bipartisan, overwhelming support – 121 to 2 in the House and 40 to 0 in the Senate – for placing this amendment on the ballot.”
He has a good point. The amendment only makes sense and it seems like a win for all sides.