Last week, Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach spoke out during his “State of the City” speech and commendably defended local officials who use tax dollars to provide public services.
Gerlach pointed out that Overland Park has gained a reputation as a great place to live because it provides many top-notch services at a reasonable taxation level. But state officials, he said, are threatening the city’s ability to do that.
“Some state lawmakers want to take local control away from local elected officials,” he said.
Gerlach especially criticized the unneeded property tax lid that the Legislature rushed through in 2015 without substantial conversations with city, county or school officials. The law will require public elections to increase local property taxes above a certain, limited level.
He called the legislation “nothing more than a pair of handcuffs on local representative governments, which the state did not apply to themselves. The effect is to diminish the essence of representative democracy at the local level.”
Overland Park’s success in providing good government services is far preferable to the train wreck that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature have made of the state’s economy. The governor’s unfair and failed 2012 income tax cuts have sapped the state of crucial public revenues while failing to create promised jobs.
As Gerlach said, “It is difficult to understand why the state feels compelled to limit our ability to govern at the local level.”
The Legislature should repeal the property tax lid rather than limit local officials’ ability to provide the services their constituents deserve.
And Johnson County’s top politicians and business leaders need to take a cue from Gerlach and speak out more often about the ongoing problems that Brownback and the Legislature are creating in Topeka.