Archive for Thursday, January 23, 2003

State better equipped than cities to deal with budget woes

January 23, 2003

It was widely reported that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposed state budget for fiscal year 2004 didn't include a tax increase.

That would be true if the Legislature follows the new governor's blueprint for how the state should deal with an anticipated $750 million revenue shortfall or something like it. But Sebelius' proposal could well mean additional taxes at the city and county levels.

Sebelius made additional cuts to demand transfers, revenue the state collects and sends back to the state. Her cuts to these programs followed on the heels of cuts her predecessor, Bill Graves, made in November.

The cuts to demand transfers will cost Johnson County $11.1 million and could cost De Soto as much as $200,000. The consequences of these actions are all too apparent from the name of one program Graves cut: the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund.

Unless local governments decide to cut services, forego new roads, bridges, needed buildings and additional parkland, or defer needed maintenance on existing facilities, they will have to raise property taxes.

No one is overjoyed by tax increases, but it is our view the state not only has the responsibility to address a budget crunch of its own making but is also better equipped to do so. Whereas, local governments must primarily -- and perhaps exclusively -- turn to property taxes for dollars, the state can raise revenue from sales, income and property taxes.

The balanced approach available to the state seems much more appealing to us. This is especially true in a growing community forced to pay for new schools and, perhaps, a swimming pool, through the property tax levy.

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