Area farmers frown on tax

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
David McNett, left, and Marvin Lynch listen as Sen. Derek Schmidt makes a point during a visit to Piqua Friday afternoon.

PIQUA — Kansas Sen. Derek Schmidt walked into a clutch of farmers in the Farmers Co-op store here Friday afternoon and was dissuaded from talking too seriously about removing sales tax exemptions when it comes to agriculture.
“I know the sales tax on a $250,000 combine is a lot,” Schmidt said, noting at 7 percent it would add $17,500 to the cost.
The farmers quickly told him to think more in terms of $500,000 for a combine and its headers and a sales tax of $35,000. And there are soaring input costs that every farmer has to deal with.
Schmidt understood and agreed that such a tax burden would en-courage farmers to by-pass local implement dealers and go to Oklahoma or elsewhere to save money.
“You could haul a combine quite a ways for $35,000,” Schmidt agreed. “We’ll make sure everyone is aware of those facts” when the 2010 session starts in January.
The easier solution to the state’s financial problems would be a relatively quick turnaround of the economy, hopefully by spring, he said.
“For the past two months state revenue has been right on target with projections and it wasn’t as bad in June as it first looked,” after a delayed payment was made, Schmidt said.
“What do you think?” he asked the farmers. “Do think the economy is finally bottoming out?”
None was sure, but they did agree that it appears the fall harvest is going to be one to remember, particularly with a huge soybean crop that has benefited from wonderful weather — for August.
David Kramer brought up the migration of 80 students from the Iola-based USD 257 to Moran’s Marmaton Valley district, where the state pays about $2,000 more per student in state aid.
“Where are you on that?” Schmidt was asked.
Schmidt said he was aware of the disparity in per-pupil aid between districts and particularly the difference of aid that flows to small and large districts.
“I asked the Department of Education financial people about that two or three years ago and they said basically the net effect was a (financial) wash over the whole state,” Schmidt said. Paying more to smaller districts was balanced out in savings from larger districts, Schmidt said.
He predicted public education would have to deal with more funding cuts in the next year, though probably not as severe as in the past year. Schmidt also said financial problems might lead to more local decisions for districts to consolidate.
“A few years ago we had what, 303 or 305 districts, and now we’re down to 295,” he said. “And we have some districts that are barely on a margin of existence.”