TOPEKA — Two Republican candidates officially filed to enter the governor's race Tuesday and sounded off on complaints they say voters are raising about property taxes.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer vowed to prevent increases to the state's property tax rate and curb spending through his business-like approach to efficiency and accountability. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach called for changing state law so local property reappraisals only happen every two or three years and capping increases at 2 percent per year.
"Re-appraisals are a stealth tax hike that hits people year after year, and there’s no accountability," Kobach said. "When we have a big vote across the street for an income tax hike or a sales tax hike, there’s all kinds of political agitation and talk and deliberation, and everybody focuses on that tax hike.
"But the reappraisals that we all see are just like a quiet funnel that just keep increasing and increasing. There’s no hubbub," he said. "There’s not big debate. There’s no acute point of decision. It just keeps going up, and it’s drowning people in taxes."
Kobach also said he wants to close the loopholes in state law that prevent local mill levies from rising faster than inflation. The exceptions, he said, have been stretched to the point that they are so big "you can drive a truck through them."
He said the recent vote in not-so-conservative Douglas County, where voters rejected a property tax hike to fund a jail expansion and mental health facility, shows people are fed up with property taxes.
Selzer also complained about increasing property valuations to raise taxes and said taxpayers don't need the burden compounded by higher rates.
"That requires someone who is leaning in on costs every day, every waking moment, 24-7," Selzer said. "How can we be more efficient? How can we be more productive?"
Kobach and Selzer filed a day ahead of Gov. Jeff Colyer, who plans Wednesday morning to secure his spot on the ballot. Kobach and Colyer are the perceived front-runners in the August GOP primary, trailed by Selzer and former state Sen. Jim Barnett.
Selzer said only the media think he's a distant third in the race. He believes 10 weeks is enough time to close the gap by letting people know he intends to make state government more cost effective, allowing the economy to grow.
After he finished filling out the paperwork with Bryan Caskey, the elections director in Kobach's office, Selzer told Caskey to deliver a message to his boss.
"Tell him he’s going to have to run faster if he’s going to keep up with us," Selzer said.