Tax shortfall – There will not be enough tax revenue to cover expenses to which the state already is obligated. And because Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders appear steadfast they won’t remove the dagger causing all the bleeding in Kansas – the unsustainable, reckless income tax cuts of 2012-13 – there is no point holding one’s breath for lawmakers to fix the economy in a responsible manner.
If the missed December revenue estimate was predictable, so were the responses from House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita. Basically, both legislators said we need to tighten our belts and be more efficient. But when your revenue is off hundreds of millions of dollars a year, there aren’t enough belts to tighten to get us out of this mess.
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Hopes for 2016 – Our hopes for 2016 include this: A kinder, gentler state in Kansas, one that values its people – all its people, not just the wealthy – over ego, narrow ideology and special interests. We’ve elected leadership in Kansas that is sacrificing the good schools, roads and social safety net that were hallmarks of our great state because of wrongheaded tax policy and government austerity gone too far.
Food sales tax – Kansans have extra motivation to shop across the state line to save money on food. A new report by Wichita State University researchers on behalf of KC Healthy Kids indicated 70 of the state’s 105 counties shared at least one border with a neighboring state. Oklahoma doesn’t exempt food sales from taxation, but has a lower 4.5 percent rate. Colorado and Nebraska exempt food sales from taxation. Missouri’s state food sales tax rate is 1.2 percent. In other words, it pays to leave Kansas to do business.
Medicaid expansion – With state legislators facing re-election campaigns and eager to have a short, noncontroversial session, it seems unlikely that any plan for Medicaid expansion will be seriously considered this year. That’s not good news for the estimated 150,000 uninsured Kansans who would receive health care through an expanded Medicaid program – or for the hospitals and health professionals who would provide that care.