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Strong leadership needed
Taxing issue may tax Kansans once again
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 The 2016 legislative session is just around the corner. It will come on the heels of a Kansas Department of Revenue report that notes tax revenue receipts fell short of expectations for December 2015.

According to the report, withholding payments unexpectedly dropped 3.5 percent below collections from 2014 in the last week of the month pulling down individual income tax receipts to $25.9 million below expectations.

Sales tax receipts also did not meet expectations. Collections for accounts representing half of all state sales tax receipts were down 4.2 percent.

Overall, sales tax receipts, which reflect spending in November, were $14 million below expectations for December.

There should be no surprises here.

However, “it is the first time this fiscal year that individual income tax receipts have not grown compared to the prior fiscal year to date,” said Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan is quoted as saying in a KDR news release. “It is too soon to tell if this is a one-time event or not.”

The KDA noted that total receipts for the fiscal year to date, reflecting money collected by the Kansas Department of Revenue and other agencies totaled $2.9 billion. But, other results were mixed.

Revenue from all tax sources was $19.2 million under estimates for the fiscal year-to-date.

Insurance premiums were $7.9 million more than estimates for the month.

Overall revenue receipts collections – which includes corporate franchise fee, insurance premiums, interest, net transfers, agency earnings and miscellaneous – were $651.6 million for the month, or $28.3 million more than expectations.

The net transfers for December were $56.2 million more than estimates, primarily from an additional $56.9 million in transfers that were authorized from the special allotment authority in HB 2135 and announced in November following the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group’s updated estimates.

This can’t possibly be the fault of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s dubious tax-spend experiment, could it? Not if you ask his right-wing ilk in the Legislature.

“The reality of the retail sales receipts is that it’s consistent with a national economy that continues to struggle under President Obama,” said Speaker Ray Merrick. “When the going gets tough, Kansas families pore over their household budgets. That is why I am committed to an in-depth review of the state budget to ensure each tax dollar is being spent as effectively as possible.”

Let’s just keep passing the buck. Oops, there may be no bucks to pass.

All this being said, the state is entering this session with serious budgetary woes. They may not be as bad as last year, but who knows what the future holds.

Gov. Sam Brownback has said repeatedly that more tax increases will not be necessary. Senate President Susan Wagle and other legislators have predicted a short session, with Wagle saying taxes will not be on the table.

This may not be realistic. 

We can no longer afford to rob eduction and the Kansas Department of Transportation in a knee-jerk reaction to fill budget gaps. We can no longer shuffle the tax burden down to local governments. We must have long-term problems that need long-term solutions.

We need strong leaders. Our lawmakers must set aside their petty, partisan bickering and pandering to their bases and do what is best for Kansas.

Dale Hogg