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

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

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. 

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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 is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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