TOPEKA - During debate today on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita), offered an amendment to provide $45 million in immediate property tax relief to Kansas communities.

Initially a part of Democrats’ Kansas First proposal, this was offered as an amendment to  House Bill 2548. It would apply $45 million of the state’s $351+ million surplus in the next fiscal year to the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund (LAVTRF). In the past, the Legislature has transferred money into this account for the purposes of distribution to each of the state’s 105 counties. Local units of government are then required to use the funding for reductions in the local property tax rate.  No such transfer has been made since 2004.  

“We have spent the last six and a half weeks talking about income taxes, when what we’re really facing in Kansas is a property tax crisis,” said Ward. “Incomes have remained stagnant or declined over the last decade, while property taxes have skyrocketed. Middle class families and seniors on fixed will benefit much more from a property tax cut  than an income tax cut.”

A 2011 study by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation concluded that Kansas ranks 21st in favorability for individual income tax rates, 32nd for sales tax rates, and 41st for property tax rates. Additionally, the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Research has confirmed that property tax rates have increased over 65 percent over the last decade.

“This amendment to lower local property taxes is fair and fiscally responsible, unlike plans that have been presented to eliminate the state income tax, which shift the tax burden to the poor,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence). “If we are ever going to restore the American Dream, we have got to do all we can to ease the burden on local homeowners.”

The Ward Amendment failed 41-76. All House Democrats voted in favor of the proposal.

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See the final 41-76 vote on the Ward Amendment here.

Review the nonpartisan Tax Foundation study here (Kansas ranked 41st in property taxes).

See how YOUR county stands to benefit from the Ward Amendment here.