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OPINION: Extension of Sales Tax Increase Needed

Opinion Press - May 7, 2013 5:08 pm

Dennis Lauver is President & CEO of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. He has worked for chambers of commerce in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. He became President/CEO of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce in late 2006.

The Salina Chamber of Commerce is an independent voice that will champion the Salina economy. A legislative proposal is currently under consideration, as the veto session is about to begin, that threatens the funding stream that provides for the KU School of Medicine – Salina to operate.

We know the KU School of Medicine – Salina accomplishes at least two important things:

1. The school creates a positive economic impact on the Salina economy. Students, faculty, staff live here and create economic activity. Other medical training programs in Salina (nurses, doctors doing their residency, etc.) are better and more vibrant because of the KU – School of Medicine’s presence in the Salina economy.

2. The school meets a need that the status quo was not: it is creating a pipeline of health care professionals prepared for service across Greater Kansas. Simply put, it takes money to ensure Greater Kansas has the health care professionals it needs. The status quo was not meeting this need.

We recall three years ago when a top lobbyist with a major entity in Topeka told legislators that “Education is not a business community issue.” We could not disagree more – it is the long term issue that nearly employer is concerned about. Salina and Kansas employers must be assured of the quantity and quality workforce they need to globally compete on a daily basis. Whether it is at the K-12 level, the career-tech education level or for someone learning to be a medical doctor, Kansas needs a strong education system that is properly funded.

Therefore, we support the “practical conservative” approach to ensure support for financing education programs, given current budget constraints that exist in the State of Kansas. We support a temporary extension of the sales tax increase from three years ago. We support this on the condition that it is a temporary measure and that it is a decrease from the current state rate. We suggest a reduction that will lower the state sales tax rate by one tenth of a penny.

In addition, we share our desire for Salina and other voices (local chamber of commerce executives and community economic developers) to have a larger voice at the table as the Governor’s office conducts policy discussions in advance of the 2014 legislative session. There are other important and very specific changes that can improve the tax climate of Kansas; changes that will directly lead to the creation of quality and premier wages. Salina will provide a practical approach to creating new policy that will grow the Kansas economy.

City of Salina