On Jun 30, 2015, at 5:55 AM, Forrest Knox <Forrest.Knox@senate.ks.gov> wrote:
Straight Talk from Senator Knox
The Art of Compromise
June 29, 2015
Elected representatives are “people pleasers.” By definition, they are elected by the people. It’s pretty hard to get elected without pleasing the majority of voters. So, how do you please people? You provide what they want; you provide services they want, or you reduce their tax burden. Or, another alternative is to uphold the principles that people believe in. If the majority of voters believe strongly in the traditional American principles, they will elect people who uphold these principles.
Many Kansans believe that state government has grown too large, too bloated and inefficient, too burdensome on citizens and businesses. But on the other hand, other Kansans want state government to take care of them and to provide them with services traditionally considered charity functions of community service organizations. This group also includes many public employees, who battle for increased state revenue in order to provide themselves with job security. Public employee unions have been one of the strongest forces pushing for larger government; one reason the number of state and local government employees in Kansas is one of the highest in the nation on a per capita basis.
This battle of ideologies is being waged right now. It was plainly seen in Topeka as we worked to resolve the impasse and close out the legislative session. This past session was the longest in the history of the state because we had to do what none of us wanted to do. We had to cut the budget, which public employee unions hated, or we had to increase revenue, which many principled Kansans oppose. In the end, we compromised and angered both sides, both those addicted to big government and those who believe strongly in the traditional American principles.
However, we did accomplish some major protections for tax payers: 1) we cut state spending by almost half a billion dollars; 2) we put in place a property tax lid – requiring voter approval for a property tax increase; 3) we completely eliminated state income tax on 31 % of Kansas tax filers (388,400 low income taxpayers); 4) we continued the future reduction of income tax rates for all working Kansans; 5) we now require a social security number for a taxpayer to be eligible to receive certain tax credits (saves $3 million and stops illegal aliens from getting these benefits); 6) we protected charitable contributions as being 100% deductible, while protecting the mortgage interest and property tax deductions from being totally eliminated.
In order to continue this reduction in dependence on taxing production we increased consumption taxes slightly. We increased state sales tax by 35 cents on every $100 in purchases. We also increased the tax on tobacco.
In addition we backed up slightly on the small businesses that currently pay no income tax. We now tax guaranteed payments to the owners of those businesses.
I voted for this package, though there was much to hate in the bill. I try to take a long-term perspective. We did increase taxes (the first time I’ve ever voted for a tax increase), but compared to the huge tax cut of 2012, we only backed up about a third. We continue to move toward less tax on production, shifting to taxing consumption. Long term, we are still on track to increased economic health for Kansas, smaller government, and a more business / jobs friendly environment in Kansas.
They say compromise is the art of making everyone mad. Many principled legislators made a tough vote on this one, because in the end it is our responsibility to govern.
It is interesting to look at those who voted no. All Democrats and liberal Republicans voted no. They took no part in the process of reaching compromise and of governing.
In Topeka you have to take small steps or you fall on your face. You also have to figure out what it is possible to accomplish and to do it. In 2012 we did what we could, and it turned out to be a big three steps forward. Because the economy has been very slow to recover, we had to do the responsible thing this year and back up one step. But, we are still moving in the right direction.
The sun is shining; there’s moisture in the ground; wheat harvest is good; the corn is growing fast; the beans are looking great; there’s lots of hay; and life is good in Kansas!
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