Editorials

Facts, not myths, about Brownback’s tax plan

Gov. Sam Brownback changed the scorecard on measuring the success of his tax policies.
Gov. Sam Brownback changed the scorecard on measuring the success of his tax policies.

Gov. Sam Brownback is changing the scorecard on measuring the success of his tax policies. And, of course, he is blaming the media for not reporting the facts.

Brownback is making the rounds across the state, including last week at the Wichita Pachyderm Club, trying to dispel myths and “set the record straight.” One of the main myths, according to Brownback, is that the Kansas tax plan is failing.

Brownback focused on two statistics to prove the success of his tax policies: That private-sector jobs are up, and that the number of new small business filings is at a record level.

“What we designed the tax plan to do is working,” Brownback told Pachyderm members.

Jobs are up since the tax cuts went into effect in 2013, as The Eagle and other media have reported. But what Brownback doesn’t mention is that jobs are up in the region and nationwide – and are growing at much faster rates than Kansas.

Over the past two years, Kansas’ job growth rate – both private sector and total non-farm jobs – has been among the worst in the country. In fact, Kansas had 4,200 fewer private-sector jobs in August than it had the previous year, for a -0.4 percent growth rate.

That’s not exactly the “shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy” that Brownback promised.

It is also true that new business filings are up. But a different measurement shows that the growth rate of private establishments in Kansas trails the region and nation (which didn’t eliminate their taxes on pass-through business income).

Also, a task force that Brownback created reported earlier this month that the rate of increase in pass-through entities in Kansas was about the same after the tax exemption went into effect as it was before then. That suggests the tax exemption hasn’t spurred much growth.

And as the job numbers indicate, these new businesses apparently aren’t hiring many employees.

What’s most noteworthy about Brownback’s “myth-busting” is that he is using different measures than he said he would.

In 2012, Brownback said that a quarterly report on the “Indicators of the Kansas Economy” would serve “as the leading document” to evaluate whether his “policies and initiatives are having the desired economic effect.” But after those reports kept showing Kansas trailing the region and nation on most measures, the Kansas Department of Commerce stopped publishing the reports on its website in 2014. Then this summer, it stopped producing the report.

Kansas has seen economic growth since Brownback’s tax cuts took effect. But so far, that growth has lagged the region and nation. And the growth hasn’t come even close to making up for the huge loss of revenue from the tax cuts.

Those are facts, not myths.

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