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  • Writer's pictureRachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector

Kansas Chamber’s annual poll affirms business leaders eager to slash state, local taxes


The Kansas Chamber’s annual survey of 300 business owners and executives provided strong support for state and local tax reductions and anxiety about “soft” skills of the state’s workforce, including indifference to showing up for work on time. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from Kansas Chamber’s survey of business leaders)


By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA — Seventy percent of the 300 Kansas business owners and executives surveyed said state and local taxes were too high and three-fourths agreed the state’s economy would expand once tax obligations were reduced, the Kansas Chamber said Tuesday.


The annual online and telephone survey by the business lobbying organization showed top issues of concern were taxation, inflation, the workforce and government regulation. In 2022, the foremost issue identified in the survey was inflation. Workforce challenges topped the executives’ list in 2021.


The Kansas Chamber’s poll revealed more than half of the 2023 participants — 51% — believed state personal income tax rates should be cut and 74% were persuaded that tax cuts would produce trickle-down influences beneficial to the Kansas economy. Among the business insiders surveyed, interest in tax reform dwarfed consternation with energy and health care costs or expansion of government. The survey had a margin of error of 5.6%.


“When it comes to the profitability of a business, we found tax sensitivity is really trending up, with 70% now saying they pay too much in taxes — a 10% increase from last year’s poll,” said Pat McFerron, president of the Oklahoma polling firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates.


In previous Chamber surveys, fewer people held the view that Kansas taxes were too high. Here are findings on that issue by year: 60% too high in 2022; 62% in 2021; 49% in 2020; 60% in 2019 and 56% in 2018. Over the past five years, no more than 5% thought state and local taxes were too low.


The Kansas Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly have tangled during those years over the politics of income, sales and property tax policy. Republican lawmakers concentrated during the 2023 session on adopting a single, flat rate for the individual income tax that would be of substantial benefit to wealthy individuals, but Kelly objected. Democratic legislators prefer a focus on curtailing property taxes.


In 2022, Kelly and the Legislature agreed to gradually shrink the state sales tax on groceries. A state law required the food rate to fall from 6.5% in 2022 to 4% in 2023 and to 2% on Jan. 1 before eliminated Jan. 1, 2025.


The Kansas Chamber poll was released as Kelly announced that since taking office as governor in 2019 the state had attracted $18 billion in private-sector investment associated with more than 1,000 economic development projects and creation or retention of 65,000 jobs.


“This milestone shows that our fiscally responsible approach to growing the economy is working, and that this unprecedented surge of business activity continues to rise,” Kelly said.

She said the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis reported last week that Kansas had the country’s second-strongest growth in real Gross Domestic Product at 7.4% during the second quarter of 2023.

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n terms of the state’s workforce, the Kansas Chamber poll said the percentage of business people surveyed who were satisfied with the workforce fell to 43% — far below the 75% reported in 2010. Satisfaction with the workforce stood at 45% in 2022, 51% in 2021, 68% in 2020 and 54% in 2019. Results to this question covered years of economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“This is not just a post-pandemic trend. This is a pretty substantial decline,” McFadden said.

He said a substantive concern of participants in the poll were deficiencies in the soft skills of workers, including willingness to show up to work on time. Technical skill shortcomings were a lesser challenge, the poll said.


Alan Cobb, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, said the expectation was the governor and legislators would keep the latest findings in mind as they opened the 2024 legislative session in January. This poll was conducted Nov. 20 to Dec. 4.


“Kansas job creators are looking for leadership and solutions that will keep the cost of doing business low in our state so they can compete,” he said.


In terms of the businesses polled, the Kansas Chamber said 64% had less than 10 employees, 21% had 10 to 50, 7% had 51 to 100, 5% had 101 to 500 and 2% had more than 501.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.

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