Newspapers across the state have exploded with stories about Lynn Jenkins failure to properly manage state motor fuel taxes, and local officials are scrambling to make up for her massive mistake.
From the Pittsburg Morning Sun:
When financial times are tough, as they seem to be nationwide these days, any revenue is good revenue.From the Manhattan Mercury:
So when Bourbon County Commissioner Bill Brittain was told on Monday that his county was recently shorted more than $1,400 in state fuel tax revenue, he was quite concerned.
"This is a very tight budget year," he said. "So any revenue that we can collect that is uncollected... those all add up. We definitely would like any revenue we can get."
Bourbon County joined Crawford County as part of the 65 counties statewide that were shorted during this year's fuel tax revenue distribution from the state. Crawford County is owed approximately $7,900.
On the flip side, Cherokee County was one of 40 counties that received too much fuel tax revenue and could possibly be forced to pay back the extra amount. Cherokee County received roughly $5,400 too much.
“Ultimately, the Legislature will determine and make a policy decision on the overpayments and the underpayments,” Wagaman said. “It’s clearly a situation the Legislature wants to have hearings and take action on.”
But not a situation that Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, said she wanted to see. Menghini said it was good news that Crawford County didn’t owe money, though she said she wasn’t sure how the Legislature would proceed.
“It’s going to be a delicate balancing act with the counties that were underpaid,” Menghini said. “And hopefully we don’t do too much damage to the counties that were overpaid.
“I don’t see why it’s a Legislative issue when the treasurer’s office made the mistake,” she said.
Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, was more succinct in his analysis.
“Stuff rolls downhill,” Grant said. “So I guess we’re at the bottom of the hill.”
Grant said he also wasn’t sure why it was the Legislature’s problem.
“We allocated the money, but it was up to (the treasurer) to make the distribution,” Grant said. “I don’t know if leadership is trying to take the heat off Lynn Jenkins at this (election) time or what it is.
For Riley County, what started out looking like a windfall Friday afternoon might have become a shortfall instead.
According to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal Saturday, Riley County commissioner Mike Kearns received a phone call Friday morning from Capital reporter Tim Carpenter informing him that the state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins' office had made an error in calculating the shared fuel tax earnings for 2008. According to the reporter, Riley County was due $70,000 in back revenue.
That news quickly turned to frustration, however, when Carpenter called Kearns back later that afternoon. After talking to the treasurer's office, Carpenter reported that Jeff Wagaman, the assistant state treasurer, had misread the spreadsheet and incorrectly told the newspaper that Riley County had been underpaid for its 2008 gas tax figures, when in fact it had actually been overcompensated by $70,000.
Kearns told the Mercury Saturday that he is "still trying to figure out exactly what side of the issue" Riley County is on, and expressed frustration over the fact that the treasurer's office had not notified the county of the problem themselves.
"You get the money from the state and you bank that they do their bookkeeping properly," he said, adding that he would "not be pleased" if the state asked for the $70,000 back. "I don't know where this will go, but we'll just have to work it out."
Representatives from Jenkins' office were unavailable for comment.
From the Topeka Capital-Journal:
Shawnee County Commissioner Vic Miller says the state owes Shawnee County about $3 million and wants to know why there is any question about whether the state will pay the money.
"If we had had the money in hand a couple of months ago, we could have given the taxpayers an even bigger refund than we did," Miller said.
Miller has said Shawnee County was shorted $1 million last year alone. He also believes the county missed out on similar amounts in 2006 and 2007.
He said cities and townships in Shawnee County especially would benefit because more than half of the total owed to Shawnee County would be passed along to the county's townships and cities.
From the Lawrence Journal-World:
Fine, Lynn Jenkins hasn't increased any taxes since she was in the state legislature directly- but, through her inaction as state treasurer, Jenkins has increased taxes all over the state as counties have had to make up for funds they should have been receiving from the state. It's ridiculous someone who has managed a department this badly would ever ask anyone to trust her with a new higher stress job.
Douglas County has been shorted $340,000, and possibly much more, because of an error in calculation of state gas tax reimbursements to counties, officials said Monday.
Some counties got too much, and some not enough. Douglas County received too little, as did Shawnee County, $1 million; and Leavenworth County, $192,000.
Jenkins’ office said the error was programmed into the system in 1999 -- three years before she was elected state treasurer. Jenkins has praised her staff for discovering the problem.
Democrats, however, have pounced, saying that the issue undermines Jenkins’ assertion that as a certified public accountant she would be able to rein in the federal budget. She should have caught the mistake earlier, they say.
“Now she’s saying it isn’t her job to make sure $15 million in taxpayer dollars goes to the right counties, despite those funds being specifically under her control,” said Kansas Democatic Party executive director Mike Gaughan. “For an accountant, Lynn Jenkins seems to have zero interest in accountability.”
Lynn Jenkins: Can't be trusted with our Kansas budget, can't be trusted with the federal budget.