Kansas Democrats float proposal to lower property taxes by reviving dormant fund

Legislators say their three-part plan could save taxpayers $694 million annually

by Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A three-part proposal to reduce property taxes could save Kansas homeowners millions, Democratic lawmakers said during a news conference Monday at the Statehouse.

Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka, and Rep. Mike Amyx, D-Lawrence, released the plan for consideration in the next legislative session, which begins in January. The plan includes reducing residential property assessment rates from 11.5% to 9%, financing a statewide property tax reduction fund and raising residential property exemptions from the state mill levy that funds public schools.

Miller and Amyx want to refinance the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund, which was designed to help local governments lower property taxes. The fund was suspended in 2002, but the two believe the state government now has enough funds to resume payments.

Under their proposal, the fund would be replenished every year with the $54 million stipulated by state law, and for the next four years, an extra $54 million would be deposited annually to partially offset years of nonpayment. The money in the fund, which is portioned out according to population and other factors, would then be used to offset local property taxes.

“We haven’t done that for the last 20 years,” Miller said. “The state becomes a miser when it’s got their hands on money. They like to keep it rather than give it back to taxpayers. We think that needs to change.”

Mill and Amyx also want to raise the residential property exemption for the school mill levy from $40,000 to $65,000. Miller said last year’s property tax legislation failed to make any real impact for Kansan homeowners. During the 2021 legislative session, residential property exemption was raised from $20,000 to $40,000, creating a property tax reduction of an estimated $46 per home.

“Forty-six dollars a house is not what people are looking for,” Miller said. “They’re looking for meaningful change.”

Rep. Dave Baker, a Council Grove Republican and member of the House Committee on Taxation who did not seek reelection, said he couldn’t speak to the new proposal, but he said property taxes in the state have been hurting Kansans for too long.

“It’s broken and it needs to be fixed,” Baker said. “I’ve been talking to constituents, to voters, that is the number one item that they are upset about.”

Miller and Amyx, who are seeking reelection and are unopposed, hope to have bipartisan support on the matter. Amyx said critics of the proposal could create their own plan.

“We ask, ‘What is your plan to reduce property taxes for homeowners?’ ” Amyx said. “Kansas homeowners are getting hit hard. It is time that we help them, we do our jobs and this is the plan we bring forward. We welcome other ideas, we truly do.”

Gov. Laura Kelly hasn’t signed off on the plan. Miller said they spoke to one of her spokespeople ahead of the meeting about the plan, and hope to gain her support.

These changes would create a 13.3% reduction in home taxes, saving Kansans more than $694 million annually, the Democrats said.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/26/kansas-democrats-float-proposal-to-lower-property-taxes-by-using-dormant-fund/

Kansas City Current secures first playoff berth with 3-0 win

Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta blasted a pass from Kate Del Fava into the goal for a 1-0 Kansas City lead. The Current won the match 3-0, locking in a spot in the upcoming NWSL playoffs. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The Kansas City Current locked down an NWSL playoff spot — the first in team history — with a 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit at Children’s Mercy Park Sunday afternoon. After early season disappointments left the team at the bottom of the standings, the Current still has the chance to finish on top.

Nearly ten thousand fans enjoyed the warm early fall weather and bright sunshine, and Lo’eau LaBonta, CeCe Kizer and Clair Lavogez each scored first-half goals to ensure the crowd enjoyed the outcome as well.

The Current pressed high in the early going and created some high-quality chances. CeCe Kizer was aggressive in taking on Spirit dribblers in their own end, and Claire Lavogez won possessions by anticipating and disrupting Washington’s passing lanes.

Kansas City had some great chances in the first few minutes, but was denied by three great saves from Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury.

LaBonta finally got the home side on the board in the 18th minute on a full-field build-up. After the ball crossed the midway line, Alex Loera played it up the right side to Kate Del Fava who beat a challenge from defender Julia Roddar and then lofted a cross to Lo’eau LaBonta centered just outside the 18-yard box.

LaBonta took a touch to settle the ball and then turned on it, blasting it high into the right corner of the goal.

The Current continued the offensive pressure, but mis-timed two opportunities in quick succession, leading to apparent goals waved off for offsides.

Kizer earned the second goal for the Current in the 38th minute, picking up the rebound of a corner kick from Loera and knocking it in from the 6-yard line.

Claire Lavogez wrapped the scoring action just 3 minutes later, picking up Kristen Hamilton’s pass from the endline and tapping it past Kingsbury from close range.

The Spirit made substitutions through the second half and continued to press for a goal, holding possession for long stretches but unable to create dangerous chances against Kansas City’s defense.

The Current will play its final regular season match next Sunday against Louisville FC. Kansas City holds third place in the standings, but final playoff seeding and scheduling will depend on the next week’s outcomes. The top six teams make the playoffs, and the top four will play host to at least one playoff match.

Defender Alex Loera signed a baby’s onesie after the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer stretched out to take a shot on goal but was denied by Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans celebrated in the south stands after CeCe Kizer’s goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Washington midfielder Bayley Feist knocked the ball away from defender Kate Del Fava. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans could get faces painted on the stadium plaza before the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Claire Lavogez lined up a shot on goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans in the Blue Crew supporters’ section celebrated the win after the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer went high to head the ball away from Washington midfielder Andi Sullivan. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Rhythm and blues singer Carlton Rashad entertained the crowd on the stadium plaza before the game and performed the national anthem. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward CeCe Kizer smiled as her shot rolled into the corner of the Washington goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Fans enjoyed games and entertainment on the stadium plaza before the match. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta headed the ball near the Washington goal. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Families enjoyed the warm day together at Children’s Mercy Park. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)


Forward Kristen Hamilton fought for possession with Washington defender Amber Brooks. (Photo copyright 2022 by Brian Turrel)

Kansas ads in governor’s race: Often misleading, disparaging with a partisan dash of truth

Kelly, Schmidt loyalists post dozens of commercials — and Pyle piles on

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflecor

Topeka — The battle between distortion and nuance rages in the Kansas gubernatorial race as dozens of commercials flood television and the internet in a quest to influence voters’ views of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt.

In the last few days, independent governor candidate Dennis Pyle added his voice to the electronic dialogue with his first piece of campaign advertising. It predictably attacked both Schmidt and Kelly as “two peas in a pod.”

Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, has joined allies in taking swings at Kelly by asserting the governor cavalierly closed public schools in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. It’s as if Schmidt wanted voters to imagine Kelly personally padlocking chains to school doors.

These ads don’t remind Kansans of life-or-death uncertainty about COVID-19 that existed in March 2020 when Kelly directed local and state officials to transition the education system to online instruction. In that moment, there was no testing, no personal protection equipment and no vaccine to counter a lethal virus easily spread at mass gatherings.

In response to criticism of being the first governor to suspend in-school classes, Kelly said she would “never apologize for protecting the lives of our children.”

Throughout the campaign, Kelly and her allies have worked to tattoo Schmidt as a clone of former Gov. Sam Brownback, an unpopular Republican who derailed the state budget with a fantasy quest to eliminate Kansas’ income tax. Brownback’s strangulation of state government’s revenue stream led to years of budget problems, deep spending cuts and, ironically, tax hikes.

Kansas Values Institute’s PAC, which backs Kelly, has produced no less than eight commercials devoted to affirming a Brownback-Schmidt ideological alliance.

A comparable guilt-by-association approach was used four years ago in Kelly’s successful campaign against Republican nominee Kris Kobach. The messaging was given a boost by Kobach, who promised to surpass Brownback’s zeal for slashing taxes and spending.

Schmidt, of course, hasn’t promised to recharge Brownback’s disproven tax agenda, which was repealed in 2017 by the GOP-led Legislature after a dismal five-year experiment.

Transgender feud

Advertising wordsmiths have dedicated themselves to interpreting positions of Schmidt and Kelly on whether transgender women or girls in elementary, middle school, high school and college should be banned by Kansas law from sports programs.

Schmidt said as governor he would sign legislation requiring participation to be based on a person’s gender at birth, which would disregard rights of Kansans who transitioned.

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC put it a different way, declaring Kelly opposed reasonable “efforts to ban men from competing against girls in high school sports.”

Kelly said Schmidt and his allies were distorting her veto of two “discriminatory” transgender sports bills and her belief athletic associations, including the NCAA, should set policy on student participation in sports.

“You may have seen my opponent’s attacks,” Kelly said in her latest campaign commercial. “So, let me just say it. Of course, men should not play girls sports.”

Schmidt’s campaign howled and the GOP nominee declared “she’s wrong to mislead Kansans about her real position.”

Packing a punch

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC has contributed to the Kansas conversation with seven commercials. The roster featured a piece blaming Kelly for rising crime. The ad was problematic because it relied on alarming footage of a smash-and-grab store robbery in California — not Kansas.

The Kansas Democratic Party posted to Twitter a video of Schmidt declaring: “What good does it do to fully fund schools?” That endless loop snippet didn’t contain the rest of Schmidt’s sentence: “… if you turn around and lock the children out of them?”

C.J. Grover, spokesman for the Schmidt campaign, said the Twitter item should be considered “misinformation” and reflected a “flailing and desperate” campaign.

He said the GOP nominee pledged to fund public education as required by the Kansas Constitution. However, Republicans in the state Legislature have eagerly sought election of a GOP governor who would be more friendly to reform in state financing of public schools, including diversion of tax dollars to private schools.

Emma O’Brien, spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, said there was good reason Schmidt didn’t want a spotlight directed at his record of supporting reductions in state aid to K-12 public school districts.

“It’s no surprise that Derek Schmidt and his team are panicking about Kansans learning the truth about his record,” O’Brien said. “After supporting a bill that underfunded schools in the state Senate and defending Brownback’s tax cuts to public schools as attorney general, he’s already proven that he can’t be trusted when it comes to fully funding public education. He can say whatever he wants during an election year, but the facts don’t lie.”

Put your helmets on

The volume and variety of Kansas gubernatorial commercials — embedded with questionable claims, out-of-context conclusions and misleading statements — could escalate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. The objective would be to influence the cadre of undecided voters across Kansas who might be susceptible to a well-crafted, timely attack ad.

The latest polling indicated Kelly held a small edge over Schmidt, but the gap was within the margin of error. Such a competitive race could convince organizations invested in the governor’s race to continue spending in a bid to move the needle.

More than 40 campaign ads tied to the Kansas governor’s contest have surfaced so far. In addition to the big spenders, contributors included the Democratic Governor’s Association PAC and groups known as Our Way of Life and Get Back to Work. Others that haven’t revealed themselves could break through in the final weeks of the race.

Schmidt and Kelly have released 15 commercials, and Pyle, the independent candidate for governor, last week dropped his first ad.

The conservative state senator from Hiawatha took a swipe at voting records of Schmidt and Kelly, who both served in the Kansas Senate, on a series of bills proponents believed useful in cracking down on illegal immigration.

“Derek Schmidt thinks he has you fooled,” Pyle’s spot says. “He doesn’t want you to know his bad votes on illegal immigration. No surprise, he voted every time with his buddy — Democrat Laura Kelly. Two peas in a pod.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/26/kansas-ads-in-governors-race-often-misleading-disparaging-with-a-partisan-dash-of-truth/