Johnson County’s residents, school leaders, business executives and elected officials have good reasons to scrutinize decisions made by Kansas legislators as the 2015 session nears an end.
Lawmakers already have passed their normal 90-day operating time, but have not yet decided how to close a $400 million gap in next year’s budget, which starts July 1.
Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature are having these discussions because income tax cuts they approved in 2012 have dramatically reduced public funds flowing to Topeka.
Among the questions closely watched in Johnson County:
▪ Will the Legislature boost the state sales tax rate of 6.15 percent? If that happens, Johnson County retail stores could have a tougher time competing with those on the Missouri side of the state line, where the state tax rate is already lower at 4.225 percent.
▪ Will the gasoline tax go up? Kansas lawmakers are discussing a 5-cent increase. If that is approved, the fuel tax in Johnson County would be 12 cents a gallon higher than Missouri’s.
▪ Will lawmakers approve a cigarette tax increase? Again, that tax is already lower in Missouri, so Johnson County stores that sell a lot of tobacco products could lose sales.
▪ Will state revenues come in as expected? If they are lower than predicted in the next two months, that could especially affect schools in Johnson County. Lawmakers might be tempted to change the block grant funding they recently approved in the new budget.
Finally, the Legislature could change parts of the 2012 tax bill, which would affect some Johnson County businesses.
Overall, plenty of issues are still up in the air as state lawmakers continue to stagger toward the session’s end.