- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas senators have approved a bill repealing mortgage registration fees, a move that supporters consider a tax cut for homebuyers but that county officials said could cost them millions of dollars.

State senators on Wednesday voted 26-12 in favor of Senate Bill 298, which would phase out over five years the fees lenders pay to county governments based on the cost of a mortgage for a residential or commercial property. The bill offsets some of the lost revenue with an increased document filing fee for deeds and mortgages, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1kLd6e7) reported.

The measure, which now goes to the house, is strongly backed by the Kansas Bankers Association but opposed by county government officials. In Sedgwick County, the fees brought in $7.4 million in revenue in 2012. County spokeswoman Kristi Zukovich said the county estimates it would lose as much as $800,000 in 2015 and $3.4 million by 2019.

The Kansas Bankers Association said that it estimates Sedgwick County would lose about $180,000 in 2015 and about $2 million in 2019.

“At the end of the day, it’s a tax cut and that’s how we view it,” said Doug Wareham, vice president of the Kansas Bankers Association. “It is reducing the cost of borrowers that need a mortgage to buy a business, a home and land. And that’s a tax cut.”

Sen. Jeff Melcher, a Leawood Republican who supported the measure, said if counties need to make up the lost revenue they can raise property taxes or raise their mill levies, and then be held accountable to voters.

“It’s just an unfair tax and it’s a hidden tax,” he said. “Nobody realizes that they’re paying it, it’s just another hidden way for them to get into taxpayers’ pockets without them even knowing it.”

Sedgwick County Chair Dave Unruh opposed the mortgage fee repeal and disputed Melcher’s argument.

“The argument just starts getting all strung out. They don’t want us to raise mill levies. They think it’s too high,” Unruh said in a phone call. “And yet at the same time they’re cutting our other revenue sources and there’s a considerable amount of services we provide that are state mandated services.”


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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