Taxing time

1/29/2013

Brownback's latest proposals penalize Kansas homeowners.

Brownback's latest proposals penalize Kansas homeowners.

Facing a budget deficit triggered by his plan for significant income tax cuts, Gov. Sam Brownback needs new revenue.

Unfortunately, he's looking to address a budget shortfall by penalizing low- and middle-income Kansans — and more than 300,000 homeowners in the state in particular.

Among Brownback's proposals to raise money for the state: maintaining a state sales tax at 6.3 percent that was scheduled to drop to 5.7 percent in July, plus eliminating the popular mortgage interest and property tax deductions for Kansas homeowners.

For starters, all sales taxes should be implemented with great care because they disproportionately affect lower-income residents who spend a higher percentage of their income on food and other necessities.

It would be one thing if the state's higher sales tax rate was to be maintained to help fund schools and services for the poor — programs that could be in line for severe cuts — instead of being used to offset a cut in income taxes. That's not the plan, unfortunately.

Brownback has said the mortgage interest deduction mostly benefits wealthier property owners in the state, but it's estimated that some 315,000 Kansans currently claim an average state deduction of about $516 per year. On average, the property tax deduction saves roughly 372,000 homeowners another $125 a year.

The governor's interest in targeting homeowners would only leave them paying higher taxes. At a time of declining home sales and property values, Realtors in Kansas understandably fear the fallout of such a two-pronged tax hike on homeowners.

The impact would be even more painful in southwest Kansas, with a greater percentage of low-income residents struggling to make ends meet than in other parts of the state. They'd also be paying a higher toll in sales taxes under Brownback's plan.

It's all unnecessary, especially when better ways to boost state revenue exist, such as targeting special-interest sales tax exemptions that cost the state many millions annually in potential revenue.

Kansas lawmakers who have vowed to lower their constituents' tax burdens should see how Brownback's latest proposals don't help in that quest, and find it easy to reject such a push.

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