Pushing for Property Tax Relief
As your State Representative, I have always focused my legislative efforts around what I hear from 10th District constituents. While affordable health care and illegal immigration are always hot topics, I have received numerous letters and e-mails from seniors on fixed incomes that are concerned about literally being taxed right out of their homes.
I never will forget the time I was campaigning east of Baldwin. I drove up the gravel drive of a small, clean farm house and knocked at the side door. An elderly gentleman answered at the door, holding a portable oxygen tank behind him. He explained to me that he and his wife were in their early seventies and were struggling with paying for their medications and ever-increasing property taxes. “You know, Tom”, the kind old man told me, “These are supposed to be our golden years, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford to live here much longer”. I heard that message time and again this fall, and so did several other Kansas legislators. As a result, I believe the Kansas Legislature might actually pass substantive legislation this year that addresses this issue. And I’ll be adding my input by introducing two major pieces of property tax legislation.
The first piece of legislation would provide significant enhancements to the existing Homestead Refund Program. My plan would increase the maximum refund amount from $600 to $750, exclude Social Security income from the total household income calculation, and raise the total household income threshold to $30,000. These changes will allow many more Kansas homeowners to participate in the program AND receive a significantly larger refund in the process. The annual cost to the state for this program would be approximately $25 million.
I also believe that it is important to provide limited income seniors living in high growth areas with a program that literally freezes their current property tax payments. Therefore, I am also introducing new property tax deferral legislation that will work like a reverse mortgage for qualifying homeowners (at least 65 years of age and having $30,000 or less in annual income). Under this program, the state would finance the deferral of property tax increases on the homesteads of qualifying taxpayers. Deferred taxes would constitute a lien on the property and would accrue interest at the rate of 5%. Under this proposal, the spouse of a deceased taxpayer could elect to continue a deferral upon the death of the original claimant if the spouse was at least 60 years of age and lived at the home.
Sound Kansas tax policy must make allowances for those who are unable to fend for themselves economically. Maybe 2007 will be the year that the Kansas Legislature gives its limited income seniors a little piece of mind to enjoy during their golden years.
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Thank you for letting me serve as your State Representative. I always appreciate knowing where you stand on the issues our state is currently facing. I can be reached at (785) 296-7668 (daytime) or (785) 865-2786 (evenings). My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you would like to be added to my e-mail newsletter mailing list, please send me your e-mail address.