Tax cuts – The income-tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback place a huge bet on a discredited economic theory. Organizations including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute – all three Koch-backed – rallied behind the governor’s decision. But voices from teachers, social service workers, local government, law enforcement, corrections, higher education, community arts associations and rural development agencies were either silent or horrified.
With trademark hubris, Brownback’s administration contends lower taxes will bring enough of a job surge to overcome the loss of revenue. And if hot air and think-tank logic created jobs, everyone would feel a lot better. The truth is, Kansas would need tens of thousands of new jobs almost immediately to overcome the effects of the bill. Kansans have witnessed the stunning act of a governor knowingly jeopardizing the state’s future for the sake of ego and unproven theories.
Brownback’s opponents have taken to characterizing the former U.S. senator’s ideas as failed Washington policies brought back to Kansas – handsome tax cuts for business and the wealthy, creating massive budget deficits. Those claims seem to have some merit. But unlike Washington, Kansas is required to balance the state budget. We can expect that will be done by chopping spending for public schools, roads, services for the elderly, poor and disabled, and everything else in the years to come.
One of the more curious aspects of this session’s tax fight is this: If the governor was so enamored with this tax bill, then why did he spend a great deal of this session trying to get the Senate to pass a version that would cut taxes less? Could there be a risk in cutting taxes this severely? What we hope is that years from now we’ll be writing a mea culpa admitting that the governor and his allies were right. Unfortunately, we don’t think that will be the case.
As House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, noted, at least some observers are sure “to be amazed” by the impact of that legislation. It either will be people who are amazed that the supply-side approach to job growth in Kansas actually produced something close to the glowing projections of Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters, or it will be people who are amazed that Kansas would approve such controversial tax cuts. Time will tell whether Kansas constituents have reason to be proud.
Kansans are left to figure out how a plan that would benefit corporate interests and shortchange others makes sense. The lost revenue would mean programs already pinched by budget cuts – namely social services, schools and public safety – would be hard hit. Rather than give Kansans relief where they need it most – property taxes – such a strategy only would drive up property taxes as communities try to fill funding gaps.
Brownback’s optimistic assumptions are not supported by serious research. But they are supported by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, the Kansas Policy Institute and former Reagan economic adviser Arthur Laffer. That was enough to push the tax cuts through the conservative-dominated Legislature. In the long run, we believe Brownback’s tax reforms will mimic President Reagan’s. The only beneficiaries will be the wealthy. Everybody else will pick up the tab and suffer the consequences.