Issues, National

Here’s a thought, how about no taxation without representation? The IRS shouldn’t even have the power to redefine what taxable “income” is to begin with. Employment “perks” suddenly cease to be such when you discover your effective tax rate going up, even though you don’t make more money. If they manage this, what’s to stop them from going after other pre-tax contributions?

Currently, free meals for employees, spouses and their dependents are excludable from income under section 119 of the Tax Code if the meals are for “employee convenience” and are provided on the employer’s premises. The IRS is also looking to clarify section 132, which says an employee entitled under section 119 to exclude the value of a meal provided on the premises is treated as having paid an amount for such meal equal to the direct cost of the meal. No more free meals for tech workers? IRS advances project that could tax on-site food perks, Silicon Valley Business Journal

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Our state senators went out, dug a grave, bought a casket, picked out a headstone, and now they’re cruising to the hospital with the top down to unplug us. Share to support your frustration with the unparalleled, unprecedented failure of the #ksleg113‬ day session.

Current Events, Kansas

SB270 Passes 21-19

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CC by 2.0 Tax Credits
Current Events, Kansas, Politics

Budgeting for (by) Dummies

To this point, I haven’t said a whole lot about problems the legislature has been having struggling with our budget. There are a lot of voices in that chorus already anyway, and I don’t have too much to contribute that hasn’t been said. Though, I will say at least a couple things that I do think need said, if only to drive the issues home.

This starts with Furlough Friday. Which was, and now isn’t. The legislature avoided furloughs by… saying there won’t be furloughs. Let me be clear, I hate seeing my friends put into a tough position because of a furlough. BUT, that process is in place for a reason. It’s the line in the sand that forces our representatives to do their job in a timely manner. By lifting that threat, even temporarily, that’s a gift more for them than the workers. Keep in mind, while the bill authorized the employees to work, it does not authorize them to be paid. Because they can’t do that without the budget. So, they basically just told state workers to keep doing what they’re doing, for free, and they’ll get checks in the mail to them for that when they get around to it. And if those workers happen to be part of the university system, they can’t even openly discuss their concerns without fear for their jobs now, thanks, again, to the Kansas Legislature: Continue reading

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Current Events, Kansas, Politics

Hey look, we made Doonesbury!

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Kansas, Politics

Well, if there’s one thing we can count on here in Kansas, apparently it’s that if we have a problem in the state, we can just hide from it and it’ll go away. How do we fix problems if the legislature won’t even talk about them? I thought we elected leaders, not ostriches.

“The intention was to get the bill into conference so that Senate and House negotiators could work on crafting a final fix to the state’s $400 million budget hole.” Kansas House votes not to hold debate on tax plan; The Wichita Eagle

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Kansas, Politics

Though stopping short of fully admitting his tax-cut plan is failing Kansas, Brownback is attempting to patch our budget problems by raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco. But, this is again an example of ego getting in the way of making good policy, since sin taxes are inherently regressive in nature. As a result, if this passes, those already struggling in Kansas will suffer the worst, while the well-off will continue to be well-off. Plus, sin taxes are designed to try and discourage the sin. There are people that will quit smoking and decrease drinking, thereby negating gains. Not to mention that many populated areas like KC, Ft. Scott, and Pittsburg can easily border-hop to Missouri. Bottom line, we’re letting bad decisions lead to worse decisions.

Brownback wants to raise tobacco and alcohol taxes to help eliminate a projected shortfall of nearly $600 million in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers aggressively cut income taxes at Brownback’s urging in 2012 and 2013 to stimulate the economy. Kansas committee review bill to boost taxes, Topeka Capitol-Journal

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CC by 2.0 Alan Cleaver
Kansas, Politics

The Power of the Purse

Exciting news coming out of Topeka this week, as a panel of economists have determined that through 2016, Kansas is expected to have nearly a billion dollar shortfall. Naturally, Democrats are dancing in the streets declaring this to be evidence of Brownback’s epic failure in tax policy. Administration Republicans are stoically optimistic, confident that good times are coming, and in the mean time see being forced to scale back as A Good Thing™. “Living within our means,” they call it. The reality is, the Republicans are more right than wrong in the matter. The budget isn’t nearly so simple as “fire bad, tree pretty.”

They certainly are far from right though, too. The trick is in how we, as a state, find opportunity in the position we are in. One of the important lessons in Buddhism is the idea that good and bad are very fluid, relative concepts. The worst event in your life can simultaneously be the catalyst for the best. Being put under financial stress gives us a great opportunity to do work that we otherwise don’t (or won’t) do when our budget is flush. Rather than making a mockery of Brownback’s failings in this area, or complaining about how hard the next four years will be, Democrats should be focusing on how to find success strategies within the scaffolding available. If Brownback and company truly fail Kansas, we’re all hurt by it. That leaves only room for constructive countermoves, not criticism and vitriol. As a result, my patience for the “Brownback is destroying Kansas” troupe is somewhat limited. Complain less, do more.

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