The parade of issues continues as local candidates for the statehouse respond to ourquestionnaire we developed with input from PVPost.com readers earlier this month. We’ll be posting the answers to one questionnaire item per day through Friday.
Would you support extending the current 1 cent state “temporary” sales tax if it emerges as the only politically achievable means to limit additional cuts to public education funding in the near-term? If not, do you support further cuts to public education?
Senate District 7:
Kyle Russell (D):
I do not support further cuts to public education under any circumstances. My first choice would be to repeal Governor Brownback’s income tax cuts and use that revenue primarily to restore school funding. If repealing the income tax cut is not politically feasible, I will consider any revenue options on the table in order to spare education from further cuts. This could include an extension of the 1 cent sales tax. In general, I am concerned that our state is moving toward a replacement of the income tax with a higher sales tax. This approach is not my first choice because a higher sales tax hits working families and our most vulnerable citizens the hardest. This is especially true now that Governor Brownback’s tax bill has eliminated the sales tax rebate on food for lower income families, making Kansas one of only three states that taxes food at the full rate with no rebate program.
Kay Wolf (R):
The one cent sales tax that went into effect two years ago was passed as a temporary tax with $0.006 expiring in July 2013. The remaining $0.004 will be retained to provide on-going funding for the Kansas Department of Transportation for infrastructure needs. In 2010, Kansas was still in the midst the national recession. In plain terms, there was not enough money coming into the state coffers to pay the bills. Many times drastic times call for drastic measures. This was one of those times. With a bi-partisan coalition the one cent sales tax became law. This tax generates approximately $365 – $400 million dollars annually.
Some have asked the question, ‘would you vote to extend it for education?’ A vote to extend the sales tax by no means guarantees the proceeds will ever be used to fund education. In fact, within the legislative process of budgeting, the chances are close to nil that this money would be used as a funding source for education. To my knowledge, use of the additional sales tax proceeds only been proposed as a revenue source to reduce the upcoming deficit created by the passage of this year’s tax bill.
The Governor has stated he would like the legislature to consider an extension of the one cent sales tax. If a bill is introduced, I will be voting no. I made a promise to my constituency that this tax was to be temporary to aid Kansas through difficult economic times. The sales tax did just that. Had this year’s tax bill not passed, there would be no need to contemplate such action. I stand behind my pledge to the people of Kansas. A vote to extend the sales tax is a vote to increase taxes. I vote no.
House District 19:
Stephanie Clayton (R):
If there were absolutely no other conceivable way that cuts to education could be avoided, AND if there were a set-in-stone agreement that all monies generated from such a tax would go ONLY to K-12 education, then -and only then- would I consider it. I look at any tax increase, especially a sales tax increase as burdensome to the middle class, especially to seniors on a fixed income, and so I would approach such a solution with great thought and concern.
Zach Luea (D):
Yes. My first priority would be to avoid extending the 1 cent sales tax while still fully funding education. If the only politically achievable option to additional cuts to public education funding is the 1 cent sales taxes, then we must extend the tax. We can avoid the extension by amending Gov. Brownback’s fiscally irresponsible tax plan. Gov. Brownback’s plan shifted the tax burden to middle class Kansans. Kansas families should not be forced to select between higher sales tax or funding education because of this policy. I will work with members of both parties to resolve this issue. We can accomplish both goals of lowering the sales tax and funding education if we work together.
House District 21:
Amy Bell (D):
We must get funding to our schools. This is not the best way to do it, but if becomes clear that this is the only option, I would support the extension. We need to work together to restore responsibility to our government. This means meeting the constitutional mandate to fund schools while still being able to honor the deals we make with voters.
Barbara Bollier (R):
I do not support further cuts to education. However, there is no guarantee that the revenue produced by extending the one cent sales tax will be used to fund our schools. The budget vote would have to be completed and the budget bill signed by the Governor before I would trust that the money would be used for education.
I voted for the temporary sales tax that is now set to expire. That vote was based on the temporary nature of the tax. It surprises me that some of the very people who were intensely critical of that vote, calling it an 18% tax increase, are now in favor of extending that tax. I favor a balanced approach to taxation in Kansas, with parity between sales, income, and property tax. The drastic reduction in revenue that is predicted because of the income tax cuts passed this past year must be rectified. Returning to a balanced tax plan is what I support as we appropriately fund education in the state of Kansas.
House District 25:
Megan England (D):
I am committed to public education and will be willing to consider any and all options in order to protect it. That said, the state of Kansas ended their fiscal year with a surplus of almost $500,000,000. Then the Brownback administration implemented a massive income tax reduction which has created a shortfall in the upcoming budget. Sales tax is a regressive form of revenue generation. Before any discussions of extending the sales tax occur, the legislature must first repeal Brownback’s irresponsible tax plan.
Melissa Rooker (R):
I do not support further cuts to public education and believe that we need to address the issue of school funding to create long-term solutions. There is a level of complexity involved that requires an all-inclusive approach to school finance reform; in other words, it is time to take a hard look at the existing school finance formula. The new tax plan passed by our legislature has artificially created the need to consider extension of the sales tax to make the numbers work. Continuing to shore up basic operating expenses with what was originally intended to be a temporary fix to carry us through the serious economic downturn is not good public policy. I support an effort to re-examine the tax plan passed in order to slow it down, close loopholes and restore some measure of balance to our overall tax structure.
Tomorrow, we delve deeper into school finance:
Governor Sam Brownback in September appointed a 10-person task force to search for ways to “make public schools more financially efficient.” Shawnee Mission received a 100 percent efficiency rating from Standard & Poor’s in a study commissioned during Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’s tenure. Do you think Kansas public schools are run inefficiently? If so, where is money being wasted?