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Proposed Kansas legislation would reimburse business owners for some pandemic closure losses

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Kimberly James | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – The Kansas Legislature is considering two bills that would provide direct benefits to businesses that were shut down or restricted during the COVID-19 the pandemic.

Senate Bill 149 would allow for county governments to reimburse businesses the property taxes they paid while shut down under county restrictions. Senate Bill 286 would require the state to reimburse a portion of property taxes paid while businesses were shut down, as well as give business owners the ability to claim credit for up to 10 years on their property tax liability.

"Businesses that have been shut down or restricted during the pandemic who are paying attention to this are waiting for what potential legislative fix arises," Eric Stafford, vice president of Government Affairs at the Kansas Chamber, told The Center Square. "Under current Kansas law, if neither of these bills pass, those businesses have a right to reimbursement for use of their facility."

Stafford said he thinks SB286 is more likely to pass than SB149, and there are still some details in the bill that need to be refined.

An agreement has been reached between businesses that were suing the state for revenue losses during the pandemic and the state's attorney general to allow the legislature to resolve the matter this session. Under current Kansas law, if neither of these bills passes this session, those businesses that originally filed suit have a right to reimbursement for the use of their facility.

"It's not unreasonable for a business owner that was forced to close to say, 'Well if you're going to close me or keep me restricted for six months, why do I still owe my full property tax burden?'' Stafford said. "In our view, it's definitely reasonable to understand the predicament the existing law places local governments in through the shutdown while at the same time providing the benefit to the taxpayer who suffered over the last 12 months."