In 2021 in Kansas, the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 13 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and the Democrat Governor, Laura Kelly, signed it into law. SB 13 was modeled after Utah’s 1985 “Truth in Taxation” law and will bring transparency to the area of property taxes. Just like in Utah, when new property values are set going forward, mill levies will automatically be reduced so that the new valuations bring in the same dollar amount of property tax to cities, counties, school districts, and other taxing entities as it did in previous years.
Kansas policymakers agree that instead of collecting big increases from valuation changes on property, local officials must vote on and take responsibility for the entire tax increase they impose. The results have already been promising. As John Hendrickson from Iowans for Tax Relief and Dave Trabert from the Kansas Policy Institute wrote in the Des Moines Register recently:
“More than half of all cities, counties, townships, school districts, and special tax districts in Kansas decided to not increase property tax this year. Now that they must be honest about tax increases, officials presiding over 1,900 local government entities suddenly decided they could provide services a little more efficiently. That’s the power of honesty and transparency.”
As in Kansas, many states are seeing the benefits that come with a law like Utah’s gold standard Truth in Taxation property tax law.
One of those states is Nebraska. After passing LB 644 in 2021, local governments in Nebraska experienced their very first Truth in Taxation hearings in September of this year. Early indications are that they were wildly successful. Madison County, which has a population of only approximately 35,000 residents, had a reported 300 people attend their hearing. In Buffalo County, Nebraska’s 5th most populous county, they had to bring about 40 extra chairs into the room to accommodate the crowd.
As Micheal Lucci, Senior Policy Advisor at the Platte Institute recently wrote:
“No longer will property taxes simply rise along with any major increase in property values. Transparency will create fairness and better tax policy, which is especially important during an inflationary cycle that is driving up property values.”
Now that Kansas and Nebraska have implemented robust Truth in Taxation legislation, the state of Iowa is set on a course to pass similar legislation in the coming months. As states continue to highlight the benefits of Utah’s law, policymakers in Utah can take comfort in knowing that our system is the gold standard of the nation and needs to be protected from attempts to undermine it. Your Utah Taxpayers Association will always be on the lookout for any efforts to do that.