In one breath, our state senator cited federal overreach as a problem. And it is.
But then he called a state-mandated property-tax lid — Topeka telling cities and counties how to manage their budgets — a success story.
The blatant hypocrisy from Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, wasn’t lost on Finney County Commissioner Larry Jones during Saturday’s local legislative coffee.
“Looks to me like you’re doing the same thing the federal government’s doing to you,” Jones snapped at Powell.
Jones was correct. The Legislature’s 2015 approval of the property-tax lid was a deliberate attempt to usurp local government decision-making by telling cities and counties they must gain voter approval for proposed property-tax increases exceeding the rate of inflation.
While several exemptions were added, there’s still no need to force elections (at taxpayer expense) to ensure funding for municipal operations when those decisions are entrusted to local elected officials.
Powell also was disingenuous in defending the tax lid as property-tax relief when he’s supported ways to increase the local tax burden.
He favored fixed block grants for K-12 public schools, which forced shortchanged districts to make significant job and program cuts and raise property taxes to make ends meet — a particularly damaging situation in rural western Kansas.
He pushed to dismantle an oil-and-gas trust fund designed to help counties dependent on those revenues. Area counties now struggling mightily due to oil-and-gas setbacks desperately need such a safety net to ward off higher property taxes.
Powell also voted for the biggest tax increase in Kansas history, mostly sales taxes, in 2015.
Sadly, it’s business as usual for extreme-right legislators controlling the Statehouse who blindly bow down to special interests without grasping the consequences.
Along with Gov. Sam Brownback, they’re wed to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill behind the property-tax lid, K-12 block grants and other ill-conceived measures, to include massive personal and business income-tax cuts that gutted revenue and wrecked the Kansas budget.
Powell and other ALEC-controlled lawmakers who’ve failed miserably with state finances have no business meddling in local government affairs.
As ultraconservatives’ recklessness clearly knows no bounds, voters in this year’s elections must support candidates who instead will put pragmatism above politics.