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Kansas Democrats Criticize Tax Brochure As Political Mail

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

Kansas Democrats are criticizing the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback (R) for sending out a brochure touting the state's new tax cuts days before the election.

The state Department of Revenue sent the brochure to 146,000 business owners statewide at taxpayer expense this week, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported. The letter described the new tax cuts adopted earlier this year by the Republican-controlled state legislature, and pushed by Brownback.

According to the state's revenue department, the timing was coincidental. Agency spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda told The Huffington Post Friday that the mailings were planned in September. Democrats disagreed with Koranda.

“It was pretty obvious that it was politically timed," state Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka) told HuffPost. "I was born at night, but not last night.”

Koranda said the timing was based on Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan's statewide tour over the summer promoting the new tax code and questions he received from business owners. Following Jordan's trip through rural Kansas in September, the department decided to put the brochure together to educate business owners about the plan, which takes effect Jan. 1, she said.

"We were trying to get this out quickly since Jan. 1 is only months away," she told HuffPost. "This tax change is the largest and most significant we've seen."

Koranda said that waiting until after the election meant they would have been received too close to Thanksgiving and the holiday season, preventing business owners from meeting with tax advisers to prepare. State Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon, a former revenue secretary, told the Capitol-Journal, that in previous years the revenue department would send the materials out over the summer.

Among the provisions touted in the brochure is the elimination of non-wage business income taxes, which the revenue department said would allow businesses more funds for growth. Gatewood, a member of the House taxation committee, disagrees saying that businesses have long had the opportunity to claim tax deductions for business expansion. He said that the department should not have written the brochure to say that the change provides a "jolt of adrenaline to the heart" of the Kansas economy.

“I am not saying that I am against tax cuts," he said. "I am saying that incentive doesn’t exist.”

Koranda disagreed with Gatewood, telling HuffPost that the plan would provide new tax savings for business owners in the state. She said that Gatewood was referring to other parts of the tax code and not the new plan.

The tax plan, which cuts personal income taxes and eliminated many corporate taxes, has long been a bone of contention between the two parties. Democrats have argued that the plan would be a fiscal calamity for the state, citing projections from the nonpartisan legislative research staff that the plan could cost the state $2 billion over the next five years.

State legislators have said that they plan to reopen the tax code in 2013 to make changes that were not included in the bill passed this year. While Wagnon said the letter should have been delayed pending the changes, the revenue department had to address the current law in the state, said Koranda.

Gatewood, meanwhile, continues to question the motive of the mailing, coming days before an election in which conservative groups aligned with Brownback trying to oust Democratic legislators. He also continued to question the message, saying the state could help the economy in other ways.

“However you cut it, it’s false," Gatewood said. "What will give you more money for your business is getting more customers in the door. That is what we need to work on.”

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