Taxpayers have far more trust in local officials than in state ones
In the midst of a self-inflicted tax cut disaster at the state level, Kansas lawmakers decided in 2015 they wanted to share their pain by forcing a tax lid upon city and county governing bodies.
Starting in 2018 (with budgets now being finalized), the local governing bodies are limited to general fund budget hikes, which are no greater than the consumer price index, which, this time around, is 1.4 percent.
The very lawmakers that howl “government overreach” at every opportunity took it upon themselves to interfere with decision-making at the local level.
While the state has mismanaged its finances through ill-conceived tax cuts which have gutted state agencies and undermined infrastructure needs, these same lawmakers have the audacity to tell cities and counties what they can do with their own budgets.
Elected officials on city and county governing bodies have been very cautious in their spending. We’re sure lawmakers can find an exception, but if that’s the case, local voters will decide at the next election whether those elected officials have been responsible stewards of their tax dollars.
For years, the state has reduced its commitment to local funding through revenue sharing programs and road/bridge assistance.
Here in Scott County, the state even cut funding for a local driver’s license examiner and county officials opted to pick up that expense.
These are expenses which have increased the tax load for local residents.
In addition, there are budgeted expenses that don’t always follow the CPI in terms of increased cost – health insurance being at the top of the list.
In recent years, health insurance premiums have increased at a much more moderate price – ranging between 3 to 4 percent for the plan offered by the city of Scott City for its employees. But there have been years past when those increases have exceeded 20 percent.
And given the debate in Washington, D.C., and the uncertainty about the future of health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, who’s to say those days of double-digit increases won’t return?
The bottom line is that city councils and county commissioners have to react to budget situations that are often times beyond their control or are in response to major infrastructure needs that arise.
It’s an unnecessary cost burden on local officials – and taxpayers – to require a vote, should increased spending in a proposed budget exceed the CPI.
It also creates an unnecessary delay in the budget process, should a vote become necessary.
Kansas taxpayers have far more faith in their locally elected officials to do their jobs in a fiscally prudent manner. That can’t be said for our current governor and legislature.
State lawmakers would do far better to follow their own advice and quit “overreaching” in areas where their expertise is lacking and unwanted.
--- The Scott County Record