Kansans are receiving robocalls warning them of a tax hike on the horizon for small businesses and urging them to call their lawmakers to oppose any changes to a tax exemption for business owners.
The calls, paid for by the Kansas Club for Growth, are a pre-emptive response to the notion that lawmakers might tweak a tax exemption for business owners in the face of a $400 million budget hole.
“Here at the Club for Growth we know that Kansas small businesses use their tax savings to expand their businesses and create jobs for Kansas workers,” the call states.
The listener is then asked to press 1 to be connected directly with his or her representative in Topeka.
“Tell them that you’re a small business and you need them to fight for small business by keeping taxes low,” the call urges.
The talking point that relieving business owners of the need to pay state taxes will spur job growth is similar to that used by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration since before the exemption for owners of limited liability corporations and other businesses was signed into law in 2012.
Brownback has resisted the idea of changing the exemption. The governor’s office said it had no connection to the ads.
The two lobbyists listed for the Club for Growth in the Kansas secretary of state’s database are Mark Dugan and David Kensinger, former Brownback aides who were involved in crafting the administration’s budget and tax plans.
The Wichita Eagle reported in January that budget director Shawn Sullivan sent Dugan and Kensinger a private email with a draft of budget information weeks before it became public. Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued an opinion this week that private emails from state employees are not subject to the state’s open records law, even when they deal with public business.
“As the Legislature considers changes to pro growth tax policy, the Kansas Club for Growth wants to make sure that small businesses, the key economic engine of our economy, are part of the conversation,” Dugan said in an email. “We respect the Legislature has a challenging job ahead and will work with leaders in the Legislature to support the transition from taxes on productivity to taxes on consumption.”
The governor has proposed increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
Dugan’s email did not address a question about the pair’s involvement in the administration’s budget planning. He also did not provide data to support the claim that small-business owners are using their tax savings to hire new workers.
Some prominent legislative leaders, such as Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, and House tax chair Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican, have floated the possibility of tightening a tax exemption passed in 2012 that has eliminated income taxes for more than 330,000 business owners and farmers.
Doug Sachtleben, communications director for the national Club for Growth, said the Washington, D.C.-based national organization was not involved with the Kansas campaign.
Sachtleben said the Kansas group had licensed the name from the organization, which has helped propel prominent conservatives, such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, into office and is known for its strong anti-tax stance.
The Kansas Club for Growth’s 990 tax form filed with the IRS for 2013 lists Wichita as the headquarters and David Murfin as president. Murfin is owner of the Murfin Drilling Co. and a member of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.