Legislators concerned about tax changes

News editor

State Sen. Jay Emler and State Rep. John Barker spoke about concerns they have with proposed changes to income, property, and sales taxes during a legislative coffee Saturday morning at Country Lakes Café in Marion.

Emler said that a bill to extend property tax exemptions to a large class of industrial and commercial equipment would hurt tax revenue for local entities across the state and drive up taxes on homes. He said it would be especially difficult for small towns to absorb the tax hit.

Emler said the legislature promised three years ago that a 0.6-percent sales tax increase would sunset this year, and he plans to vote against Gov. Sam Brownback’s recommendation to renew that sales tax. Barker said conversations with House of Representatives leaders gave him the impression the sales tax would not be renewed.

Emler said he didn’t think Kansas could afford to completely eliminate the state income tax as Brownback has proposed. To do so would force up sales tax and property tax, as well as cuts to education spending, he said.

Barker said that if income tax is going to be cut, it should be done very gradually rather than via steep drops.

Other legislation

Emler indicated he supports legislation that would temporarily recognize emergency medical service certification from other states and the military for people who moved to Kansas so they could continue to serve while catching up with Kansas certification regulations.

He also said there is consideration to allow money from the Kansas Universal Service Fund to be used to subsidize high-speed Internet service in rural areas. The fund currently subsidizes only phone service.

Emler said he opposes legislation that would forbid the use of public funds to lobby the legislature. He said groups, like the Kansas Association of Counties and League of Kansas Municipalities, are helpful to him to understand the effects legislation would have on local government.

Barker said he opposed legislation that would change the selection process for appellate courts. Before running for the legislature, Barker was a judge in the 8th Judicial District.

His work in Topeka has quickly shown him that the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System is in trouble as far as funding goes.

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