Archive for Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meier: Note a constitutional amendment on your ballot

October 30, 2012

I have had several people inquire about the constitutional amendmentquestion at the end of this year’s ballot. The explanation of votewritten on the ballot reads:

“This amendment would allow the legislature to classify and taxwatercraft upon a basis different from other property.

A vote for this proposition would permit the legislature to provide for separate classification and taxation of watercraft or to exempt such property from property taxation and impose taxes in lieu thereof.

A vote against this proposition would continue the taxation of watercraft in the same manner as all other property.”

Then the ballot includes the text of the entire section to show what the statute would look like if the proposition passed. If you look closely, there are two italicized words — and watercraft — in the middle of paragraph (a). These two italicized words are the proposed change.

Some background: Boats are currently taxed in Kansas as personal property at 30 percent of their fair market value. Proponents for the constitutional amendment say that it is much less expensive to register a boat in the surrounding states, so many Kansans register their boats elsewhere and Kansas is losing out on the tax revenue. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is also a proponent for the change and has released a press statement urging Kansans to vote yes. The press release explains that when a Kansan registers their boat in another state, Wildlife and Parks does not get its registration fee of $32.50 every three years and does not get matching federal funds.

If this proposition is adopted, it is only the first step in changing the law. The legislature would have to introduce and pass a bill to change how a boat is taxed. For example, back in 1992, a similar legislative authorization for “recreational vehicles” was adopted as part of a constitutional amendment. The Kansas Legislature in 1994 subsequently enacted a new tax system for recreational vehicles where taxes are based on the weight and the age of the vehicles, rather than on fair market value.

This is not the first attempt to change the tax rate on boats. A proposed constitutional amendment (SCR 1629) was placed on the 2000 general election ballot that would have authorized a new tax system for both watercraft and aircraft. It was defeated by less than 12,000 votes (433,499 “no” to 421,621 “yes”).

There are approximately 85,000 watercraft currently registered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. KDWPT estimates that as many as 10,000 Kansans unlawfully register their boats in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, because these states do not have a property tax on watercraft.

Keep in Touch

I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. You can track my activities on my website, my Facebook page:, and Twitter:

If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at home or in Topeka. My office in Leavenworth is at 309 Cherokee St. My Topeka office address is Kansas State Capitol, Topeka, KS 66612. You can also reach me at the legislative hotline, 1-800-432-3924 or e-mail me at

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