The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

January 22, 2013

Our View: Don’t ax Kansas deduction

Lean times call for tough budget decisions. Kansas faces lean times, and one mechanism Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed to close a hole in the budget is elimination of the home mortgage interest deduction on state income taxes.

About 315,000 Kansans — nearly one-fourth of all tax filers — deduct the interest paid on their home mortgages when they file state taxes. The deduction has averaged $390.49 per filer, costing the state $162 million annually.

But eliminating this deduction is simply not in the best interest of Kansans.

Plainly stated, homeownership makes people better citizens. Homeowners are more likely to invest in their property, more likely to get interested in the welfare of their community, and home values give families an asset when too many other investments are either unstable or unpredictable.

The mortgage interest deduction also is one of those incentives that has proven over time that it works. (The deduction has been around in Kansas for a century.)

Purists will argue that it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers by providing incentives for one group of people — homeowners — over those who don’t buy homes, but it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage home ownership.

Let’s remember, Kansas was settled largely by government incentive: the Homestead Act. Allowing people to deduct the interest they pay on a 30-year mortgage seems like a small concession relative to giving away free land.

Also, asking residents to forgo one of their tax deductions seems unfair, given the incentives the state has given to the business community. Last year, the state eliminated income taxes for the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses.

Like we said, lean times call for tough budget decisions. They also call for wisdom. We think there must be better alternatives.

Lean times call for tough budget decisions. Kansas faces lean times, and one mechanism Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed to close a hole in the budget is elimination of the home mortgage interest deduction on state income taxes.

About 315,000 Kansans — nearly one-fourth of all tax filers — deduct the interest paid on their home mortgages when they file state taxes. The deduction has averaged $390.49 per filer, costing the state $162 million annually.

But eliminating this deduction is simply not in the best interest of Kansans.

Plainly stated, homeownership makes people better citizens. Homeowners are more likely to invest in their property, more likely to get interested in the welfare of their community, and home values give families an asset when too many other investments are either unstable or unpredictable.

The mortgage interest deduction also is one of those incentives that has proven over time that it works. (The deduction has been around in Kansas for a century.)

Purists will argue that it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers by providing incentives for one group of people — homeowners — over those who don’t buy homes, but it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage home ownership.

Let’s remember, Kansas was settled largely by government incentive: the Homestead Act. Allowing people to deduct the interest they pay on a 30-year mortgage seems like a small concession relative to giving away free land.

Also, asking residents to forgo one of their tax deductions seems unfair, given the incentives the state has given to the business community. Last year, the state eliminated income taxes for the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses.

Like we said, lean times call for tough budget decisions. They also call for wisdom. We think there must be better alternatives.

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