Local News Spotlight

Reagonomics guru Arthur Laffer touts Brownback tax plan at Capitol

Updated: 2012-01-20T05:24:00Z

By BRAD COOPER

The Star’s Topeka correspondent

— Enjoying almost Republican rock star status, the man who designed supply-side economic policies for Ronald Reagan toured the capitol Thursday touting Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to cut taxes.

Art Laffer visited with tax committees in the House and the Senate as he lobbied for the Brownback plan that will slash tax rates and eliminate income taxes for thousands of small businesses.

During an hour-long hearing he occasionally dropped names of politicians (California Gov. Jerry Brown, for one) and country music star Larry Gatlin, while plugging his new book due out next month.

After the hearing, one senator snapped a photo of Laffer.

Engaging and affable, Laffer defended the governor’s plan to lower tax rates, while eliminating many tax credits and deductions that benefit the neediest Kansans.

Even when confronted by the state coordinator of the National Organization for Women, Laffer said he was sympathetic to the plight of single women who might rely on a tax credit that Brownback wants to elimate.

But Laffer insisted that reducing or eliminating income taxes are the best way to put more money back into taxpayers’ hands and spur growth that will create jobs for everyone from all walks of life.

“If you look at their performance over the last decade, those states without an income tax compared to the states with the highest income tax …the differences are huge. Those states without income taxes have grown much, much faster,” said Laffer, who’s being paid $75,000 as a consultant on the state tax plan.

But Laffer’s toughest moments came later during a hearing in the Senate, where he was challenged by Kari Ann Rinker of NOW.

Rinker asked Laffer how he could justify Brownback’s attempt to eliminate the earned income tax credit, which benefits the working poor.

Quoting Democratic icon John F. Kennedy, Laffer told Rinker the best form of welfare is a high-paying job.

“You just can’t create prosperity through hand outs and programs like that,” Laffer said. “You really have to get economic growth.”

The earned income tax credit, which benefits about 255,000 people in Kansas, generally goes to low-income workers to help them keep more of what they earn. About two-thirds of those who file for it get a refund even if they don’t owe taxes, according to state officials.

Laffer endorsed Brownback’s plan to take some of the proceeds gained from killing the tax credit and instead using them for other social programs or matching federal aid for the poor and disabled.

“I would argue that the earned income tax credit is not the efficient way of really helping that single mom. There are better ways of using those monies to help her,” Laffer said.

Rinker, who has been a single mother said she think it’s questionable whether Brownback’s plan will create jobs. Eliminating the tax credit, she argued, would hurt single moms trying to get by.

Laffer said he understood their struggle since he had been a single father with four children.

“It’s a heck of a situation to be caught in,” he acknowledged.

Rinker told Laffer she didn’t think he could understand since he’s getting paid to help with the governor’s tax plan. But Laffer noted there is an entire company working on behalf of the state for the money.

“It’s not an easy project,” he said.

To reach Brad Cooper, call 816-234-7724 or send email to bcooper@kcstar.com.

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