State chamber’s CEO laments tax climate
In October, the president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce may pick up a few extra copies of Forbes magazine.
That month, the publication will run a special section about what is right with Kansas' business climate. And though Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, knows of many positive assets that the magazine might list - such as excellent roadways, education and natural resources - he's also familiar with the pitfalls that won't make the list.
He shared some of the latter during the April 19 meeting of Lansing Business After Hours.
"We're a top-10 state," Ebert said. "(But) we're 45th in job creation, and we're the 41st worst tax climate for small business."
A major step in improving these statistics is addressing the number and size of taxes that the state imposes on businesses, Ebert said. An annual poll that the Kansas Chamber uses to gauge economic concerns may confirm his theory. Of the business owners who responded, they shared a common concern.
"In every category and in every possible way it could come back to us, taxes was the issue," Ebert said.
And though taxes are inevitable and sometimes necessary, Kansas seems to have a tax for everything.
"Kansas is just one of a few states left that taxes investment," Ebert said. "Any technology you invest in, Kansas taxes. The old, worn-out equipment ends up in Kansas because it won't be taxed."
One business owner mentioned a telecommunications tax that he still pays for touchtone phone service - hardly new technology.
Part of the problem, Ebert said, is the size and attitude of the government in Kansas. For instance, Kansas has a population of nearly 2.8 million in 105 counties. California's population is nearly 34 million in 58 counties. With nearly twice the number of counties, Ebert said, the government overhead has to come from somewhere, and too often it comes from taxing business.
"There are a lot of people in Topeka who believe that the fundamental purpose of business is to make money for the government," Ebert said.
"We think the future is going to look different, but we got to get real serious about changing these taxes."