Voters in Kansas approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that will enable legislators to bring the state's watercraft taxation policies into line with other states.
"The amendment does not actually change the way boats are taxed," said Garrett Love, state senator, 38th District. "But the amendment gives the Legislature the opportunity to make those changes."
The process began in the 2012 legislative session when both chambers approved taking the question to the voters.
"I think it passed both houses almost unanimously," Love said.
In Ford County, voters approved the amendment by a vote of 4,357 to 2,898.
Statewide, the vote was 54% for and 46% against.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the state department responsible for boating regulations, is expected to bring recommendations before the legislature early in the 2013 session.
"From what I've seen," Love said, "we could actually see an increase in revenue as boaters who currently register their boats out of state do so in Kansas."
Brian Weber, state representative, 119th District, agreed with Love.
"It's my hope that we can remove the disincentives that are currently in place that discourage people from buying a boat. Removing this unfair tax policy will make it more affordable and attractive to buy and register a boat in Kansas," he said.
Weber also expects additional registration revenue to compensate for lost property tax revenue.
According to a recent press release from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, for tax purposes, a watercraft is any boat powered by gasoline, diesel, electric, oars or sail, including sailboards, personal watercraft (jet skis), kayaks, and canoes. Watercraft are currently classified as "Other Tangible Personal Property" and assessed at 30 percent of their appraised value – a classification and rate set by the Kansas constitution. If the amendment had not passed, the legislature would not have been able to change the boat classification or tax rate.
To lower their property tax burden, some owners unlawfully register their vessels in a neighboring state. The only way county appraisers know if a resident owns a watercraft is for the owner to declare it for property tax purposes or to use the watercraft registration records KDWPT annually sends to each county.
"We are grateful to Kansas voters for their support of the amendment, and we look forward to working with the legislature as they consider ways to create a more equitable tax structure for boats," said Robin Jennison, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, which supported the amendment. "We firmly believe that lowering the tax burden of owning watercraft will be good for Kansas and Kansas boaters."