House 21 candidates on the issues: Fixing Kansas’s tax system

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With just days to go before the August 2 primaries, we’re delving into the candidates’ positions on the issues that matter most to Shawnee Mission Post readers. Each day this week we’ve run responses from Dorothy Hughes and Neil Melton, the two Republicans in the District 21 House of Representatives primary, to questions submitted by Shawnee Mission Post readers. Today we ask about their views on Kansas’s tax policy:

Do you believe changes need to be made to the current Kansas tax plan to generate more revenue for the state? If so, what changes would you make?

Dorothy Hughes

Dorothy_Hughes_16Yes, we must change course. We need to carefully examine all aspects of our tax policy and take steps to roll back the 2012 tax plan. Some conservatives have begun discussing the limited liability corporation (LLC) “loophole” as a possible fix, and it is certainly one element, but all estimates show it will not come close to remedying our fiscal situation. Our tax policy is unfair. Some people are paying nothing while others are paying a lot. We are leaning too heavily on property and sales tax, which hurts property owners and people who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on consumer goods. This is particularly bad for low and middle income families. We need real revenue reform that looks comprehensively at our tax structure and gets back to a more stable policy spreading revenues across income, sales, and property taxes. I am prepared to tackle these difficult decisions and get our state back on track.

Neil Melton

Neil_melton_16If anyone has doubt about which candidate is financed by special interests, please examine the campaign finance reports in this race. I am against special treatment in the tax code whether it comes from the right, or the left. You can’t talk about state tax policy without also addressing state spending. In previous years and administrations in Kansas, we continually raised taxes and grew state government, lost private sector jobs, while at the same time kicking unfunded liabilities down the road in the form of not funding the public employee retirement system (KPERS). In recent years we’ve cut taxes but only curbed the growth in government spending, by trimming some agencies down in Topeka, which is a small fraction of the cost of state government. The political will has not been there to make the necessary reforms that will balance our budget and make us competitive. We have 105 counties, and 285 school districts, which is far too many. To be honest, we probably don’t need 125 state representatives, many of which draw KPERS after their service in the legislature, based on a full year of work. Yes, I advocate for closing the “LLC Loophole”, which taking that position has cost me some campaign contributions by the way. We have to get on stable ground in our state if we want to attract business, but we need some meaningful reforms in state spending at the same time. It’s difficult to be a low tax state when we are one of the highest per capita states in the country for government sector workers. Johnson County is an outlier, in that we have a much lower percentage of government workers than the rest of the state. Continuing on this path is not sustainable, and until we implement the meaningful reforms necessary, we will struggle to maintain low taxes in Kansas, and Johnson County will suffer because it will be our tax dollars that go to subsidize the rest of the state. High taxes are often sold as being for the greater good, however what it does in reality is open up the door to special interest groups who line up at the trough for legislative favoritism, tax exemptions, and subsidies for their industry. I advocate for fairness in the system, not picking winners and losers, but generally speaking low taxes for everyone, and accountability for how money is spent in government services.

Thanks to both of the candidates for participating!