KHI News Service photo

The cigarette tax increase Kansas legislators approved in June to help close a budget gap has not dissuaded people from buying smokes in Kansas — at least not yet.

The state cigarette tax climbed from 79 cents per pack to $1.29 per pack on July 1, an increase of 63 percent. Tax revenue from cigarette sales for July 2015 was up 64 percent over July 2014, which means people purchased about the same amount of cigarettes in Kansas as they did before the tax hike, if the underlying cost of a pack of cigarettes stayed relatively close to last year’s price. (Data on the average price of a pack of cigarettes in Kansas last month is not yet available.)

That’s significant, because the prospect of higher taxes spurring Kansans to quit was used as an argument both for and against the tax hike.

Johnson County Commissioners will vote Thursday on a mill levy increase to pay for parks and libraries.

“Fully 50 percent plus of this entire property tax increase is going to improve services,” says County Manager Hannes Zacharias, adding those are the amenities besides a high-quality education that attract people to Johnson County.

The rest will offset a decrease in revenue collections, improve pay for sheriff’s deputies and fund capital improvements for county infrastructure.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director believes Kansas officials needs to study how they estimate future state tax collections. The comments were made just before new July revenue numbers came in below the mark.

Over the last year, Kansas tax collections have come up short of the estimates 10 times, and beat the estimates twice. Some of the misses were small, but four times over the last year the state’s monthly tax collections were at least $20 million below expectations.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, helps create the estimates.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

Some say that local government is the toughest branch, because it’s closest to the people.

For Mission, Kansas Mayor Steve Schowengerdt, it's easy.

“If you're honest and talk straight the people tell you what they want and what they don't like and you adjust,” he says.  

Schowengerdt stopped by KCUR studios to talk with Up To Date host Steve Kraske about the meatiest issues on Mission's table. 

Here are five questions Kraske asked the Mayor:

Lawmakers in the Kansas House were sharply divided over a tax bill debated Weednesday night. The measure seemed to be on its way to failure before the vote was paused at midnight by a legislative rule.

Republican Rep. Marvin Kleeb urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying it was likely their last option to avoid cuts to state services like K-12 education. They’ve already approved a budget, but it needs around $400 million in new revenue to balance.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

While the broader battle over a tax plan in the Kansas Legislature continues, a few nights ago the Senate managed to slip in a last minute provision that makes it a lot easier to obtain tax credits for private and religious school scholarships in the state.

The mission of the legislation is laudable: provide scholarships to at-risk kids to go to private or parochial schools.

But there's a catch. People or corporations in the state receive a tax credit for providing the scholarship money. The state will allow up to $10 million a year in such credits.

The Kansas House decided not to take up a tax bill Monday that was sent to them by the state Senate. Lawmakers return for day 110 of the legislative session Tuesday and the only item left on their plate is balancing the budget.

Both chambers in the Kansas Legislature have now approved the budget, but the bill needs around $400 million in tax increases, or budget cuts, to be balanced. The Senate passed a tax plan on Sunday. But senators also added some policy changes, like a limit on property tax increases without a public vote and a proposal to eliminate some tax exemptions.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Lawmakers are in the 105th day of the 2015 legislative session, making it the second longest session in Kansas state history. Legislators are looking for more than $400 million to close the state’s budget gap.

There was hope last weekend that the logjam could break when Gov. Sam Brownback introduced his tax plan. It relies mostly on sales taxes and tobacco taxes to generate revenue.

The bill mostly leaves business income tax cuts in place, because Brownback says they’re spurring economic growth.

You can’t avoid death and taxes, but you can -- and should -- plan for them. The financial planners return on Monday's Up to Date to discuss how you can do that successfully.


Legislation designed to aid some delinquent taxpayers in Missouri is on its way to Gov. Jay Nixon's desk.

The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed HB 384, the "tax amnesty" bill, which would allow people behind on their state income taxes to pay them off without additional penalties or interest.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback stuck by his aggressive tax policy during his State of the State address Thursday, outlining an ambitious list of legislative priorities for 2015.

But even members of the governor's own party say it's too early to tell what Brownback can accomplish during the session.

Eric Langhorst / Flickr Creative Commons

Throughout the year we put the Kansas City metro area under a microscope examining the details of the events and issues facing its residents and leaders.

On this edition of Up to Date, we zoom out for a broader view. Steve Kraske and three area journalists bring us their analysis, thoughts, and observations on what's working and what's not in Kansas City, Mo. 


John Russell / Flickr-CC

Last week, Missouri voters solidly rejected Amendment 7, which would have increased the sales tax by three-quarters of a cent for 10 years to fund roads and bridges.

On Monday's Up to Date, we take a look at why voters reacted the way they did and what lawmakers might do to pay for those transportation items now.


  • Rep. Dave Schatz, Chair of the Missouri House Transportation Committee
Theresa Thompson / Flickr-CC

On Thursday's Up to Date, guest host Brian Ellison covers primary ballot issues on both sides of the state line. In Kansas, KCUR has kept an eye on Milton Wolf and Sen. Pat Roberts as they battle to be the Republican nominee for the U.S.

401(K) 2012/Flickr-CC

Election season has kicked off, and we’re gearing up to a flurry of primaries throughout the area. Today, we’re taking a look at the ballots in Kansas City, Mo., and the state of Missouri.

On Monday's Up to Date, we discuss the streetcar proposal that’s found its way into the voting booth. Voters will decide whether they want to expand the taxing district east and south, and as a result, expand the proposed streetcar lines.

Kansas City, Mo., residents can expect to be asked to renew a sales tax in August. But meeting fire department needs may take more than that.

The quarter-cent sales tax created 14 years ago currently funds less than 14 percent of the fire department's $145 million budget. Personnel costs account for 90 percent of that budget.

City Finance Director Randall Landes says renewing the tax is essential, but even with the renewal the department won't be able to replace aging fire stations and equipment.


Unilever is adding 70 jobs and investing $99 million at its Independence food manufacturing plant.

About 190 employees currently work at the plant, which for years has made Wishbone salad dressing. The jobs are above average wage. the kind Independence Economic Development Council President Tom Lesnak says the city tries to attract. But those jobs have been in jeopardy for a couple of months now.

Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to veto the proposed Missouri income tax cut later today.

On April 23, Up to Date's Steve Kraske spoke with Amy Blouin, Executive Director of the Missouri Budget Project, who opposes the tax cut, and Patrick Ishmael, a policy analyst with the Show-Me Institute who supports the signing of the bill.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

A proposed tax cut that conformed to conditions laid out by Governor Jay Nixon was radically altered Monday in an effort to move the overall proposal forward.

courtesy flickr user AgriLife Today / Creative Commons

Tax season is upon us, so it's time to rummage through those shoe boxes of old receipts, dig up W-2 forms and file your 2013 return.

The Cash Money Crew is here to guide you through the process, including changes to be aware of and tips for a smoother tax return season in 2014. Later, we discuss the changing realities of retirement and how to prepare for it.


Legislation that would provide tax breaks for Boeing to build its 777X passenger jet in Missouri was passed Tuesday night by two legislative committees.

First, the Missouri Senate Committee on Economic Development passed their version of the bill, followed a few hours later by the House Economic Development Committee passing its version.  There are no major differences in the two – both would provide $150 million in incentives to Boeing to build the 777X at its campus near Lambert Airport. 

Missouri Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has called lawmakers back to Jefferson City for a special session in an attempt to win a contract from Boeing to build the 777X passenger jet.

Missouri's regular session for 2014 begins in just over a month, but in a press release Nixon says holding a special session is necessary because Boeing's deadline for proposals is Dec. 10.


Why do governments rely on the sales tax for big projects, like the medical research proposal in Jackson County?

And how fat can the sales tax get before shoppers stop buying? 

In the second half of Tuesday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with two experts about sales taxes, what makes up the total sales tax you see on a receipt, and why governments have turned to sales taxes for raising funds when revenue is down.



Jackson County voters head to the polls on November 5 to vote on a 1/2 cent sales tax increase to fund a translational medicine institute. 

In the first part of Tuesday's Up to Date, a proponent and opponent of the tax meet in our studios to debate the controversial proposal, including how county residents will actually benefit from the project.


Overland Park Voters OK Sales Tax Extension

Oct 8, 2013

An initial vote count appears to show Overland Park, Kan. voters have approved extending a 1/8 cent sales tax for 10 years, financing street repair and construction.

Unofficial returns on the mail-in ballot show some 33,000 ballots cast with 72 percent approving it.   Nearly $70 million will have been collected when the current tax expires in 2014. 

“We keep this money all segregated to make sure we spend the entire amount  on specifically what we told them we would use it for," says Carl Gerlach, mayor of Overland Park.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Debate over Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax bill was fierce in the Missouri House and the governor prevailed. 

The Republican majority was unable to muster the votes to make the $700 million tax cut into law.

The measure would have cut business taxes in half. Personal taxes would have been cut disproportionately.

Clay County Democrat Jon Carpenter called it unfair.

The showdown between Missouri's Democratic Governor and the Republican-led General Assembly finally arrives this week, as lawmakers return to Jefferson City for their annual veto session.  Governor Jay Nixon struck down 29 bills this year, with most of the post-veto attention falling on two bills in particular, a controversial tax cut proposal and an even more controversial attempt to nullify federal gun control laws. 

Campaign to prevent House Bill 253 override attempt

Children's Mercy Hospital

On Wednesday, the Hall Family Foundation announced that it was pledging $75 million to Children's Mercy Hospital for build a translational medicine research building on Children's Mercy's campus on Hospital Hill.

The Chairman of Kansas City’s Regional Transit Alliance fears  a proposed medical research tax will divert funds and attention from improved rail transportation.   The stand does not extend to  active opposition  to the tax.

Kite Singleton of the Transit Alliance makes it clear he is not campaigning against the half cent medical research tax going on the Jackson County ballot in November.

Dan Verbeck / KCUR

Jackson County voters will decide a proposed half cent sales tax to benefit development of medical innovations and research at select area hospitals and medical schools. 

The county legislature has voted by a large margin to put the measure on the November 5 ballot.

Some legislators wanted changes if they were going to back the proposal, and they got it.

The alteration, passed by a vote of 7-2, now requires the county legislature appoint a member to a board overseeing finances.