By State Representative Dave Baker
Baker’s Briefs Week No. 4 for Week of Feb. 9, 2020 Week No. 4 of this year’s legislative calendar is in the books. We are passing bills in the transportation and tax committees to which I am assigned and sending them to the Majority Leader for consideration to be voted on by the entire House of Representatives. Transportation Committee members heard from auto salvage dealers and their issue with titles to vehicles which are in need of disposal. These vehicles have been abandoned by owners or totaled by insurance companies and need to be crushed or salvaged for parts. These are not the people who tow and store an auto, but the company which determines a final disposition. We heard from the insurance industry and numerous proponents who supported changing the processing time to 30 days. I voted for the bill, and hopefully it will pass through the Senate without major changes. This bill deals with automobiles and can be the target for adding amendments, which could result in legislation with unintended consequences. \
The Tax Committee heard a presentation this week from the state of Utah and the way they fund government. It was a very interesting comparison and certain parts of their formula may have merit in Kansas. They are ranked the No.1 fastest growing state by population and have the youngest median age of residents. Federal lands comprise 70 percent of the state and five National parks are located on that land. Several key differences I noted were the aversion to granting exemptions and a flat tax rate of 4.95% for both personal and corporate citizens compared to our graduated scale. Our overall tax burden rank of 27 can be attributed to several major factors such as 105 counties vs. 29 and we have approximately 4,000 taxing districts vs. 700. Most Utah residents reside in a narrow strip of privately-owned land vs. Kansas with very little public land. Utah’s local governments are entitled to the same amount of property tax revenue this year as last year, plus new revenue associated with growth. Property taxes are reduced by the same formula. Rural Kansas would be devastated by this formula, which may be the goal of certain urban legislators. We need major changes before heading down this path and I have many more questions, but these ideas will come back again.
We are four years away from a financial cliff and now is the time to start floating new ideas. Previous legislatures should have already done this, but kicked the can down the road and we are nearing the end of the road. Our current taxing structure is neither fair nor equitable. The Capitol has been busy with visitors from every corner of the state discussing a variety of issues that need addressed by making or changing a law. We have a lot of laws on the books already and I am always concerned when specific industries or groups come to Topeka with a “great idea” on how the legislature can help them. My goal is to represent the people who elected me, and most of what I’ve heard so far can be labeled as self-interest. There are too many exemptions and I am not interested in compounding a bad situation. The next big issue will be expanding Medicaid and analyzing the details of the proposed changes concocted by the Senate and Gov. Kelly. Urban areas can survive without Medicaid expansion, but it is critical to communities of less than 100,000 population.
Listen carefully and ask questions of care providers in nursing homes, assisted living complexes, hospitals, emergency management services, county commissioners and those who represent you in Topeka. We need to quit looking at everything that could go wrong and instead look for everything that could go right. Those of us elected are to serve our constituents, not rule them. Happy Valentine’s Day and remember the best thing to hold on to is each other. Sen. Wilborn and I will be at forums this next week in Morris and Chase Counties and look forward to sharing updates and answering questions. It is an honor and privilege to serve the residents of the 68th District. Dave