Shawnee focusing on local control and tax policies in 2016 legislative agenda
The Shawnee City Council has approved a 2016 state legislative agenda that includes positions on local election, tax and public safety policies.
Each year, the city evaluates the previous year’s legislation and the effects from those decisions. Assistant City Manager Katie Killen, along with other staff members, attend the Kansas Municipalities State Program meetings and other interim committees between the legislative sessions and create a general program for the city of Shawnee that promotes the city’s agenda at the state level.
With significant items on the horizon for this year’s legislative session, the city looked at budget concerns along with education and tax issues.
One of the main items of concern for the City Council on this year’s agenda is protecting Home Rule in Kansas — particularly, protecting the city’s ability to decide how it holds elections.
Council Member Dan Pflumm said he disagreed with the city’s position on this issue and said decisions about elections should be made at the state level and cities should follow the state’s lead.
The argument over local elections is expected to surface again in the Legislature as continued pushes to make local elections partisan come back around. Council members Jeff Vaught and Mickey Sandifer said the city should have the right to decide if local election are partisan and both agreed that partisan elections at the city level would be detrimental to communities.
Vaught said that the city and county voted 14 years ago to make local election non-partisan and should continue to have the right to say so. Vaught worried that with local election season changing at the Legislature's request, it could mean that someone voting on the presidential ballot could vote partisan on the entire ballot without giving any thought to the local officials’ campaigns.
Sandifer said that local government does best when it addresses the day-to-day needs of the citizens like fixing roads and that party affiliation doesn’t play a part in that.
“We’re at the grassroots level here,” Sandifer said. “We’re supposed to hear what the people are saying.”
The council voted 5-3 in favor of keeping a statement in the city’s legislative program about local control on nonpartisan elections. Pflumm and Council members Eric Jenkins and Mike Kemmling voted against it.
The city also issued a statement about unfunded state mandates, cautioning state officials to think about how local governments can fund mandates like issuing all police body cameras.
The city supports the continued use of the sales tax exemption and the statutory pass-through funding like the motor fuel tax and the alcohol and liquor tax. The alcohol and liquor tax provided $2.4 million to Shawnee in 2014.
The city supports repealing the property tax lid and says “local elected officials create plans for the long-term viability of their communities. Any arbitrary cap on taxing or spending limits cities’ ability to meet the needs of their own citizens.”
Another item of contention for the City Council was the state’s tax base policy. The city is putting forth a statement against the exemptions to the ad valorum tax base for specific businesses. Pflumm said the city shouldn’t tell the state to change its tax policy that could be used as an incentive while at the same time using incentives at the local level. The majority of the council disagreed with Pflumm and voted 7-1 to oppose the state’s tax base policy because of the burden it places on residential property taxes.
The city also put forth statements in favor of transportation and education funding, as well as adequate state psychiatric hospital resources.
The city will provide its statements to local legislators prior to the Jan. 11 start date for the 2016 legislative session, and Killen will update the council on the various topics as they are addressed at the state level.