State takes more control over local government in last legislative session, Merriam council is told

Topeka

“In my 20 years, (it was) the most difficult session I have been through.” That is how Stuart Little, who lobbies for the City of Merriam as well as other government entities such as the Shawnee Mission School District, described the 2015 session of the Kansas Legislature to the Merriam City Council Monday night.

The conclusion of the session was a victory for the governor’s plan to reduce income taxes, Little said, and move to a consumption-based plan. Another outcome was a “pretty heavy assertion of state control over local government,” Little contended.

If revenue projections for the state do not work out, Little predicted, the same legislators who just passed the largest tax increase in state history will not be willing to pass another tax increase to balance the budget. That could have a negative effect on cities, he implied.

Little also told the council that an attempt is likely next session to move up the implementation of a new tax lid statute that requires cities to hold a public vote if a budgeted increase in tax revenue is going to exceed the Consumer Price Index. That law, which now is slated to take effect in 2018, is “very confusing,” Little said. “We’re talking about how to try to fix this,” he said. The timing of trying to schedule an election while putting a budget together is just one of the issues.

This week, Little said, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is set to announce $50 million in budget reductions, but with revenue projections missing targets again recently, the state’s balance is getting very low.

Little also mentioned a law on campaign signs and one that changes the timing of city elections to odd numbered years. Although there is some ambiguity, Little said it appears terms that end in 2016 can either be extended or a vacancy declared and filled. Terms ending in 2017 can be extended to January 2018.