Monday, November 5, 2012

Mailers on Kansas tax cuts go out ahead of election

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, earlier this year delivered a massive tax cut to business owners, and now his administration is using tax dollars to tell them about it right before the election.

Democrats, who have made opposition to the Brownback tax cuts the centerpiece of their campaigns, on Friday cried foul.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, described the mass mailing of brochures to 146,000 business owners as a "gross misuse of taxpayer dollars."

He called on Brownback to reimburse the state from his campaign coffers the $52,000 it cost in printing and postage to mail the brochures.

"I think this is a campaign mailer that should be paid for by campaign funds," Davis said.

But Brownback defended the mailers.

In a written statement, Brownback said, “The tax mailer was sent to educate business owners affected by the change in tax policy prior to the next tax year, which starts January 1. The mailing, which answers questions about the new tax law, is a reasonable expense for the Department of Revenue."

Brownback aded, “For income tax cuts to work businesses particularly have to reinvest the money in their companies and employees. How can they do this if they don't know about the changes?"

Joan Wagnon, a former secretary of Revenue and now the chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party, disagreed.

She said the mailers tout the Brownback tax cuts at crucial time during the campaign season when the central issue of legislative political campaigns has been the tax cuts.The mailers were sent out Wednesday via First Class mail just six days before the election.

Democrats have argued that Brownback's tax cuts will rob needed revenue from schools and social services while providing the wealthiest Kansans with a tax cut.

The Brownback tax cuts will exempt the owners of partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes. The package also decreases individual income tax rates for 2013, with the top rate dropping to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent, and increases the standard deduction.

Jeannine Koranda, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, said the agency made the decision to send out the brochures because officials realized that many business owners had basic questions about the changes.

One side of the blue and gold brochure says the tax cuts make the state's income tax system "fairer, flatter and simpler."

It goes on to say "this bold action" will "provide a jolt of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy," and it includes a quote from a Wall Street Journal editorial praising the changes and a quote from Brownback.

Wagnon said the brochure was much different than previous notices from the Revenue Department about tax changes.

She provided a one-page, three paragraph statement issued by the agency announcing the repeal of the food sales tax rebate that was eliminated under Brownback's new tax changes.