Politics & Government

July 11, 2014

Fact check: Did Brownback increase the Kansas sales tax?

Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, has repeatedly hammered Gov. Sam Brownback on tax policy on the campaign trail.

Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, has repeatedly hammered Gov. Sam Brownback on tax policy on the campaign trail.

Apart from the debate over the impact of income tax cuts, Davis, the House minority leader, has criticized Brownback for increasing the sales tax.

“I have voted for tax cut after tax cut after tax cut, and I did so in a reasonable and responsible manner. And what Sam Brownback has done is raise the sales tax,” Davis said last week. “My record is clearly superior to his.”

Republicans dispute Davis’ claim that Brownback raised the sales tax.

A fact check shows that Brownback presided over a reduction in sales tax – but a smaller reduction than had been promised by lawmakers.

When Brownback took office, the state had a 6.3 percent sales tax, the result of a temporary increase signed into law by Gov. Mark Parkinson in 2010 to restore the state’s cash reserves, which were drained by the recession.

Brownback criticized Democrats for that increase on the campaign trail in 2010.

The sales tax was set to drop back to 5.7 percent in 2013, but Brownback signed a bill that set the rate at 6.15 percent.

Democrats said that amounted to a $777 million increase.

Republicans say Brownback lowered the sales tax from where it was previously.

“That is a reduction, not an increase on the taxpayers,” Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said in an e-mail. “Davis’ logical error is he is comparing two potential outcomes: 6.15% with 5.7%, instead of the start point 6.3% and end point 6.15%.”

Davis disputed Barker’s reasoning.

“Right now if you and I go out and buy something, we’re paying more for whatever that product is that we’re buying than we would have been if not for what the governor proposed and signed into law,” he said.

But at a news conference, the Associated Press asked Davis if that logic would mean his own plan to postpone the next round of income tax cuts also constituted a tax increase.

Davis did not answer that question specifically. Instead, he said he was ready to have a debate with Brownback and reiterated his history of cutting taxes in a responsible manner.

The campaign’s spokesman, Chris Pumpelly, clarified the candidate’s positions in an e-mail.

“Gov. Brownback raised the sales tax permanently in order to pay for his tax experiment. We are proposing pausing tax cuts until school funding is restored to pre-Great Recession levels. Schools are our priority,” Pumpelly said. “Paul isn’t opposed to continuing tax cuts as long as it doesn’t impede on our ability to fund schools.”

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