The Kansas Taxpayers Network (KTN) released its 2004 fiscal ratings for the Kansas legislature on June 28. This is the ninth year the Wichita-based taxpayers’ organization has evaluated votes cast by state legislators on fiscal matters.
The Kansas legislature recently ended its 2004 session, without increasing taxes. There will be no fall session, unless the governor calls a special session.
“Taxpayers are relieved that the governor’s proposed tax hike was rejected,” said Karl Peterjohn, KTN’s executive director. “We cannot afford higher property, income, and sales taxes in Kansas after all of the tax hikes passed in this state during the last few years.
“This state’s economy is struggling to join the national economic recovery,” said Peterjohn, “because of increases in property tax appraisals and income bracket creep that occur automatically in this state, because of the new local use tax on business that was created last year, because of higher sales, business franchise, gasoline, and cigarette taxes that were passed in Kansas in 2002.”
Both Parties Reversed Course
Three legislators achieved top scores of 100 percent on KTN’s 2004 rating. Senators Tim Huelskamp (R-Meade) and Ed Pugh (R-Wamego) joined Representative Mary Kauffman (R-Hutchinson) with the top scores.
“In 2002 many Republicans scored poorly because they supported then-governor Graves’ tax hike proposals,” noted Peterjohn. “At that time most Democrats voted against the Graves tax hike proposals. In 2004, this was reversed as almost every Democrat voted for massive tax hike plans. In the House, Democrats were totally unified in backing higher taxes, while only two Democrat senators voted against raising taxes,” Peterjohn said.
“In both houses there are a number of pro-tax and increased spending Republicans,” said Peterjohn. “Naturally, the votes cast to raise taxes in Kansas are opposed by taxpayers, and this fiscal scorecard will help Kansans separate out the fiscally responsible legislators from those seeking higher taxes and increased spending.”
For the past four years, KTN has provided a “lifetime” vote rating for all legislators based upon votes cast in the Kansas legislature since 1996. Over several years, this measurement provides a more comprehensive picture on legislative fiscal votes.
The top lifetime scores in both houses of the legislature were achieved by Republicans. In the state senate, scoring highest on the lifetime measure were: Huelskamp, 97.1 percent; Bob Lyon (R-Winchester), 92.9 percent; and Pugh, 92.1 percent. In the state house, the best lifetime scores were those of Kauffman, 97.2 percent; Bonnie Huy (R-Wichita), 95.6 percent; and Peggy Long-Mast (R-Emporia), 95.5 percent.
The highest lifetime scores among Democrats in the senate are those of Henry Helgerson (D-Wichita), 64.8 percent; David Haley (D-Kansas City), 56.0 percent; and Mark Gilstrap (D-Kansas City), 49.9 percent. In the house, the highest lifetime scores for Democrats are those of R.J. Wilson (D-Pittsburg), 62.4 percent; Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City), 56.4 percent, and Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City), 52.9 percent.
Most Legislators Not Taxpayer-Friendly
KTN ranks as “taxpayer friendly” all legislators scoring 75 percent and higher each year. In 2004, 10 senators and 42 house members achieved that score. Those figures are well below a majority for both houses of the Kansas legislature.
At the low end of KTN’s grading scale, three senate Republicans, one senate Democrat, and three house Democrats scored zero in the 2004 vote rating, failing to support any pro-taxpayer position on the fiscal scorecard.
State senators achieving scores of zero in 2004 were: Mark Buhler (R-Lawrence), with a lifetime score of 3.9 percent; Christine Downey (D-Inman), 16.7 percent; Lana Oleen (R-Manhattan), 14.0 percent; and Ruth Teichman (R-Stafford), 9.7 percent.
State representatives achieving scores of zero in 2004 were: Geraldine Flaharty (D-Wichita), with a lifetime score of 26.3 percent; Ruby Gilbert (D-Wichita), 35.6 percent; and Joshua Svaty (D-Ellsworth), 5.0 percent.
George Petersen is a taxpayer advocate for the Kansas Taxpayers Network. His email address is [email protected].
For more information …
visit the Web site of the Kansas Taxpayers Network at http://www.kansastaxpayers.com.