Candidates differ in support for state tax plan
The candidates for the Kansas Senate 5th District seat may agree that the state needs job growth and tax reform, but they stand on opposite sides when it comes to the tax plan passed in the last legislative session.
The plan cuts several taxes, including eliminating taxes on non-wage income for numerous business owners, and The Chieftain asked both candidates to share their thoughts on the cuts in a questionnaire. Republican Steve Fitzgerald, 67, said he believes that the plan signed by Gov. Brownback could help small businesses and the private job sector improve. The incumbent, Democrat Kelly Kultala, 54, called the tax plan “reckless and irresponsible.”
Kultala, a communications and development director for Piper USD 203, cited a report from the Kansas Legislative Research Department, stating that the 2012 tax plan will cost the state almost $4 billion in the next five years. She said the state will be $2.5 billion in the hole by 2018.
“Despite claims that cutting taxes for large corporations and out-of-state special interests will create jobs and grow the economy, bond credit rating group Moody’s predicts no improvement in economic growth as a result of Kansas tax cuts,” she said. “All Governor Brownback’s tax plan accomplishes is slashing the taxes of millionaires while pushing more taxes onto the backs of employees and homeowners.”
Fitzgerald, a retired Army officer, businessman and consultant, said it should not be assumed that the cuts won’t spur businesses to expand and create jobs, which could increase revenues to the state.
“Owners of small businesses in Kansas do most of the hiring, and over 70 percent of the businesses in Kansas employ 10 people or fewer and will benefit from this tax cut,” he said. “It will allow them to retain profits so that they can expand, capitalize and hire.”
Fitzgerald said companies and people have been leaving for other states seeking better profits and jobs. The candidates also had different views when it came to allow the state sales tax to drop from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent on July 1, 2013, as scheduled, or maintain the higher tax.
In his response, Fitzgerald did not say he would support maintaining the increase, saying he does not like any tax, however he added that “we must have government and we must pay for it.”
“Sales tax has the advantage that we can avoid it by simply not buying things – so it is a bit less obnoxious than income and property taxes,” he said. “However, I would support exempting food from sales tax.”
Kultala said she would not support making the increase permanent.
“I made a commitment to my constituents that the increase in sales tax was only intended to last for three years, to get us through a very bad time in our economy, and I will adhere to that commitment,” she said.
The 5th District covers all of Bonner Springs in Wyandotte County, the city of Edwardsville west of 102nd Street, and portions of Kansas City, Kan.