Lawmakers Approve Bill With ‘Gotcha’ Amendment

By John Celock

The Republican-controlled Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday that contains a Democratic provision to provide tax relief, but the GOP continues to say the Democrats are seeking to play politics.

Thursday’s action came after House Democrats on Wednesday added $46 million for property tax relief to routine legislation seeking to remove the personal income tax on amateur built planes and drones in the state. While the amendment passed overwhelmingly in the GOP chamber Wednesday, Republicans at the time accused Democrats of pushing the amendment in order to give Democratic candidates a general election talking point of tax reduction this year.

State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) on Thursday continued to note that he does not see the Democrats’ proposal for $46 million in property tax relief through the state’s local ad valorem tax relief fund passing the GOP-controlled Senate. Among other factors Claeys said that Democrats have not said how they would pay for the program.

“If $46 million is spent on LAVTRF in 2015 I’ll eat my shoe. Well, a shoe,” Claeys told The Celock Report. “What I’m trying to say is, I like my shoes. And don’t corrupt serious legislation with gotcha votes.”

Claeys has been a proponent of the amateur aviation tax and stressed he wants to see the bill passed but not with the amendment. He said that he believes the Senate will keep the aviation provision but cut the property tax. Claeys’ district includes the Kansas State University aviation program and he noted that many student groups seek to build amateur aircraft on their own and can be hit with an over $10,000 tax bill upon completion of the project.

Claeys did vote to approve the final bill on Thursday but stressed it was to support moving the aviation proposal ahead. While 17 GOP lawmakers opposed the amendment only four opposed the final bill, which included the amendment.

Democrats continue to stress that the property tax amendment is designed to lower property taxes in the state and not to score political points in November. Rep. Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) told The Celock Report on Wednesday that 86 counties in the state have seen property tax hikes in recent years and relief is needed. When questioned about the cost, Whipple said that the money would be found in the “appropriations process.”

Kansas Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis told The Celock Report on Thursday that this not a political move, noting that most Republicans backed the bill.

“The fact that only four Republicans votes against it show that Kansans agree that property taxes are too high,” Loomis said. “It is not the politics it is about property taxes being high across Kansas.”