Kansans are going to Save Kansas

Kansans are going to Save Kansas

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Kansas, and the Kansas Center for Economic Growth of Topeka, Kansas, sponsored a forum with the subject, Kansas Tax Cuts, on April 29, 2014. The forum was open to the public. The featured speaker was Michael Leachman, Ph.D., of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization and policy institute located in Washington, D.C. (For more information about the Center, visit their Web site at www.cbpp.org.) Mr. Leachman spoke about a recent research report titled, “Lessons for Other States from Kansas’ Massive Tax Cuts”, which is available athttp://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4110. This report on the forum is being made nearly two weeks later, because its a hot topic. The Brownback administration and Kansas Republican Party continue to claim beneficial results to the state’s economy as a result of the recent income tax cuts.

Mr. Leachman’s talk can be summarized by reiterating the bullet points of a fact sheet distributed at the forum titled, “5 Ways Kansas’ Tax-Cutting is Hurting the State”, which follow:

Deep income tax cuts caused large revenue losses.
The revenue losses extended and deepened the recession’s damage to schools and other state services.
The tax cuts delivered lopsided benefits to the wealthy.
Kansas tax cuts haven’t boosted its economy.
There’s little evidence to suggest that Kansas’ tax cuts will improve the economy in the future.

 

The last point counters the argument that apologists for the tax cuts make that the tax cuts simply need more time to work. The tax cuts were supposed to stimulate business activity, particularly for small businesses that were forgiven state income taxes on pass through income to the business owners and who, in turn, would boost employment. The economic data belie the intended effect.

During the panel discussion and moderated question and answer session that followed Mr.Leachman’s presentation, the possibility of a reversal of the tax cuts was mentioned saliently.As I saw it, the prevailing sense of the issue by legislators of both parties present was that, given the preponderance of extreme right-wingers in both houses, a reversal back to the historic Kansas tax policy of balanced property, sales and income taxes would be difficult. One election cycle was seen as insufficient to change course. Another “given” is that legislators will change course and reverse a previous enactment when public dissatisfaction with the policy is widely expressed and a scapegoat is available. The public’s adverse reaction to inadequate revenue for schools, borrowing from highway funds, cut-backs in essential family support services and other public needs like expansion of Medicaid is evident in the efforts of constituency groups for these areas of concern. The defeat of Governor Sam Brownback in his attempt to continue with right-wing experiments to enhance his conservative reputation will provide the identifiable scapegoat. When the next session of the Kansas Legislature rolls around, no matter who survives the electoral process, and when bills are introduced to undo the damage of an ill-advised tax policy, the chorus will be raised, “It was Brownback’s idea. We had no idea it wouldn’t work, but he made us do it.” The defeat of Sam Brownback at the polls in November is necessary to save Kansas.

Notes: The Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s Web site iswww.realprosperityks.com.

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