William Waters, an attorney with the Kansas Department of Revenue, told the House Taxation Committee that a proposed change in how the state values property would be unconstitutional.

The proposal, known as Proposition K, would raise property values by 2% a year, based on a baseline that incorporates 2010 assessments, whether the actual value rose or fell. The current system levies taxes on the appraised value of a property, based on market value.

“The Department of Revenue feels very strongly that Proposition K, if enacted, would be a clear violation of the uniform and equal valuation provision of the Kansas Constitution,” Waters said.

The attorney said property that rose in value by 40% in five years would be taxed at 1.29% of its value under Proposition K, while property that did not rise in market value would be taxed at 1.8% of its actual worth.

“That’s not uniform and that’s not equal, and that’s a violation of the Kansas Constitution,” he said. “No ifs, ands, or buts.”

Changing the current system would require a constitutional amendment, approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of voters, according to Waters. The proposition has been codified as HB 2150, which is currently before the Legislature.

In opposition to Waters’ testimony, the president of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy said Proposition K is constitutional.

“It is left to the Legislature to establish a system that meets the 'uniform and equal’ test,” said David Trabert. “The Kansas Supreme Court has determined that the current system is constitutionally valid, but it has not held that fair market value is the only way to meet the constitutional requirement.”

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