The Star – State legislators share views at forum in Olathe

Kansas City Star; February 14, 2007

State legislators share views at forum in Olathe

There were few surprises from state legislators Saturday during a public forum in Olathe that focused on activities in Topeka.

The panel, which included Reps. Ben Hodge, Mike Keigrel and Arlen Seigfried, and Sens. Karin Brownlee and Julia Lynn, answered questions that focused mostly on health care issues, taxes and public education.

The biggest fireworks came when legislators offered positions on a legislative effort to repeal the state minimum wage.

“The minimum wage is the looniest tune since Loony Tunes,” Keigrel said when asked if the state should eliminate its own $7.25 minimum wage.

The panelists mostly agreed that having a state-mandated minimum wage hindered business and interfered with letting the market set the wage.

“Economically speaking there is no reason to have a minimum wage,” Keigrel said. “We need to get away from the political correctness and the emotionalism and the ideological baggage.”

The panel also discussed a recent proposal to require that young females be vaccinated against the HPV virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.

The panel, again mostly in agreement, said that it was not an issue that the state could easily mandate. Instead, as Lynn said, it was a decision for parents and families.

“I really resent the presumption that this bill brings forth about women and about sexuality in youth,” Lynn said “I also question the financial part of this bill that would benefit one company greatly.”

Also discussed Saturday was whether the state should give seniors a property-tax break.

The proposals being discussed this session would fix seniors property taxes at a level that wouldn’t change as long as the senior owns the home.

The idea is to allow seniors to stay in their homes, even as its value and surrounding values increase.

But legislators are torn whether to grant seniors a tax break, while other groups pay tax at different rates.

Hodge said that instead of a tax break for one group, the state could follow California’s lead in assessing property value. Rather than assess a property’s value each year and then levy a tax, California sets a rate of increase and doesn’t deviate from it.

The challenge, Hodge said, would be that cities would have to raise taxes and levy rates, rather than rely on rising property values to fund their budgets.

“This would just make local governments when they want to raise taxes, really say they are raising taxes through the levy,” Hodge said.

The forum was the first in a series at City Hall. The next one is scheduled for March 10.