Kansas legislators want to cut taxes at expense of libraries

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Kansas legislators want to cut taxes at expense of libraries

Story by Heidi Jo Hayen, Writer

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A recent bill proposed to the Kansas legislature appears to be a way for Kansas citizens to have more control over where their tax money goes, but it comes at the expense of community libraries.

HB 2719 was proposed to the Kansas House of Representatives on March 8 and has been stalled since March 14.

The bill has been frozen partly because many Kansans are upset about what exactly it entails and have begun petitioning. They have more than enough reason to be upset, might I add.

The real purpose of the bill is masked by the idea that it empowers Kansans with a way of controlling the amount of tax money that goes toward libraries. The bill states that Kansans will be able to vote on whether or not they want to pay tax money toward local libraries.

Most taxpayers will not voluntarily give money to libraries. If given the opportunity to hold onto that extra money because it is no longer a required part of annual taxes, I’m sure many of us would choose not to give it away.

So if the bill passes and voters in some areas choose not to support their local libraries, then they will not have access to all of the tools public libraries have provided over the years. Just one year of voting “no” to library funding could be enough to shut down some smaller libraries completely.

The only reason I could fathom lawmakers wanting to make this a reality is so that the state no longer has to put in the work and extra funding necessary to keep libraries up and running.

This strikes a chord with many concerned about the state of education in Kansas. With so many budget cuts due to Governor Sam Brownback’s economic plans, many schools in Kansas are finding it hard to stay afloat.

It would be unfortunate for our future generations if access to public libraries were denied to them because of a government that severely lacks an emphasis on education as a whole.

This bill would especially hurt libraries in smaller communities that are already short on funding. Such libraries are sometimes the only source of an Internet connection for some residents. This bill could possibly turn some rural communities into black-out zones.

Libraries should be available to people of all ages. There is so much to be learned in any given library, and to have that taken away from Kansans is scary. It seems counterproductive.

Education stresses active learning. It is hard to be an active learner when your state legislature takes away libraries that offer many of the tools necessary to accomplish that.