Budget & Tax
Kansas tax cuts were successful
September 14, 2017
The liberal media ignore the many successes of the Kansas income-tax cuts.
By Dave Bond
On June 6, the Kansas Legislature voted to roll back hundreds of millions of dollars of income tax relief enacted during the preceding five years.
Beginning in 2012, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a series of reforms that lowered the state’s top personal income tax rate to 4.6 percent. It will now rise to 5.7 percent.
Gov. Brownback’s 2012 reforms also eliminated income taxes for pass-through businesses, including most small businesses. Not anymore. Additionally, more than 300,000 lower-income Kansans will go back onto the income tax rolls after being previously relieved of that burden.
Gov. Brownback vetoed the legislation rolling back all this tax relief. But after overriding his veto, Kansas legislators are now the darlings of liberal media nationwide. The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, and many more gloried in the defeat of Gov. Brownback and his efforts to let Kansans keep more of the fruits of their own labor.
The evidence, however, suggests the liberal media’s narrative—that the Kansas tax cuts were a failure—is false.
Kansas has certainly been hit hard by falling prices for commodities—oil, corn, wheat—on which the state’s economy relies. Even so, Kansas lawmakers have managed to fund public schools at historically high levels. For the 2015-16 school year, state aid funding for public schools was nearly 20 percent higher than before the 2012 tax cuts. Per-pupil funding has risen to more than $13,000 per student.
In addition, Kansas’ spending on transportation infrastructure has risen to an all-time high of $1.3 billion annually.
In other words, income tax relief hasn’t prevented Kansas from funding the state services taxpayers typically care about most.
The evidence also suggests income tax reductions have helped grow Kansas’ private-sector economy.
New domestic business filings in Kansas hit record highs every year since the tax cuts were enacted, as did the total number of business entities.
In the 14 years before income tax relief, Kansas ranked 41st nationally in private-sector job growth. Following the 2012 tax cuts, Kansas jumped to 31st. Last year, Kansas hit a new record with 1.157 million private-sector jobs.
Kansas GOP moderates, plus left-leaning media in Kansas City, Topeka, and elsewhere, ignore these successes.
Republicans dominate Kansas electorally. Most consequential political conflict in the state occurs between the GOP’s conservative and moderate wings. Gov. Brownback aligns with the conservatives.
In 2012, the moderates controlled the Kansas Senate and tried unsuccessfully to prevent Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts. Later that year, Gov. Brownback responded by helping see to it that many of them were defeated in their reelection bids by conservative primary challengers.
The moderates have craved Gov. Brownback’s scalp ever since. During his 2014 reelection, more than 100 prominent GOP moderates backed his Democrat opponent.
The disdain for Gov. Brownback among moderates and liberals isn’t only about taxes. They also resent him for restricting abortions and rejecting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
But Donald Trump’s November victory was a setback for abortion proponents and Medicaid expansionists. By comparison, repealing Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts was politically more achievable—even though a late-May poll by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates showed that Kansas voters opposed raising taxes, preferring instead to reduce state government spending.
Kansas will now go from being a low-tax haven for small-business job creators to having a higher income tax burden than most other states in the region. This will reduce Kansas’ viability in the 50-state competition for jobs and economic growth.
On the bright side, however, Bernie Sanders is pleased. On June 7, his official Twitter account proclaimed: “Congratulations to Kansas for voting to roll back outrageous tax cuts.”
Dave Bond is vice president for advocacy at OCPA. Since 2011, he has advocated at the Oklahoma state Capitol on issues of free enterprise, individual initiative, and limited government. He has been referred to in the Tulsa World as “a prominent Oklahoma anti-tax lobbyist.”